Technology

Flexible PCB

Today, flexible and rigid-flex boards are becoming a dynamically growing segment in the portfolios of electronics manufacturers. One of the reasons is the minimization of electronics and the associated need to use all the available space efficiently. Also, the gradual introduction of technologies for the new generation of 5G networks requires the use of new durable materials capable of operating at high frequencies even in very diverse environments. Another significant impetus for flexible joints today is the production of electric cars, and especially their batteries, which combine weight and space saving compared to conventional solutions.

Hard to Read Print? The Reason is Speed and Ecology

Digitization brings a number of undisputed benefits. Unceasing acceleration of the production of the printed circuit board itself, simplification of the production process or lower error rate of people in routine work. But not everything is perfectly resolved - as shown, for example, by more frequent complaints from customers regarding lower quality of service printing . We asked Zdeněk Cápal, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gatema PCB, why this is the case, what are the trends in the development of printed materials, and what can be done about it. That is, a company that has been relying on the extraordinary speed of production of prototype printed circuit boards for years.

The production of PCB is often hampered by minor details. Keep an eye on it.

No, we are not going to try to tell you that Industry 4.0 is a hot trend today. It is 2021. And companies that postponed or underestimated the automation and digitization of the production and all linked processes have been stripped naked by the pandemic and are often fighting for bare survival today. Elsewhere, machines are already taking over routine activities – and these are by far not only the operations in production halls. It is a whole chain of events that precede and follow the production. Automation affects the actual input into production and ends with the dispatch of the product from the warehouse. Radim Vítek, the production manager of Gatema PCB a.s., which is one of the fastest manufacturers of printed circuit boards throughout Europe, could also talk about it. In practice it means precisely that they endeavour to save minutes and seconds of time on every detail. “We know that we cannot compete with Asian manufacturers in price, so we have to offer other advantages. The quality of production and the express speed of delivery. In extreme cases, we can produce certain types of boards even in fourteen hours, where logically no distant manufacturer is able to deliver at the same time. Compared to many European plants, we also have a three-shift operation so that we do not have downtimes and could be constantly flexible,” he explains.

Conformal Coating. A board lifespan extended as much as three times

RealTime Technologies s.r.o. company headquartered in Eastern Bohemia village Sezemice has been long recognized as one of the most profound and known top training centers in the country in thie field of IBC certifications. It is by far not only a training center, but also a producer and a distributor and a service center in the area of printed circuit boards repairs. Since 2017 it has also been a competeng center for conformal coating - that is a selective varnishing of printed circuit boards which can prevent dirt, dampness and chemical sediments from disrupting the functionality of the entire electronic system. And as a result extend its lifespan as much as three times. “it is a process that is relatively new and is still in development. A process of conform coating is actually applying paint with required tropicalization or anti-humidity features that help with protection against air humidity, corrosion or against harmful environmental effect on an already assembled electronic set. It is good to protect the set. Not only for the reason of degradation of bearing material, soldered joint or individual components. The result is then a significant increase in dielectric stability and strength, decrease in the possibility of transmission of a charge between outlets. It is a complete protection of the board” as Mr. Jiri Dostal, a Technical Director of RealTime Technologies says and adds one practical example to prove this. “A fastened board is coated which is way more safer. If I took your mobile phone and coated it, then I'm going to be able to sink it into water and the electronics in the phone would still be working without any further issues,” as added by a person who trains several hundreds of people in the area of IPC standards each year.

How to prepare the data so that it does not get stuck during the production process

While nowadays the production of printed circuit boards is a completely automated process that is just being watched and monitored by operators, however production inputs entering is still heavily dependant upon people. And this is just the reason why mistakes and errors occur a lot more during production. Some of them come from lack of attention, other are a result of transferring data between systems, others come from the lack of knowledge about the scope of possibilities of the addressed producer itself. Mr. Radim Vitek is very well aware of all types of mistakes and who is the Head of Production and who has for more than 10 years now I'll be working in the TPV department. Tactical preparations of production in the Boskovice - based company Gatema PCB that is ranked among leaders in terms of the speed of production of prototype boards on the entire European market. And as every mistake made means at least a loss of time, it might perhaps be a good idea to remind ourselves of even the most trivial mistakes that the Gatema company has been facing. „Our responsibility is to have, in its shortest possible time, an accurately and correctly set up production processes, according to which then the circuit board is producable. Hence it is key for us to obtain the correct data. And even in spite of this we on a daily basis encounter with mistakes that may sound trivial, however these are being repeated constantly,” as Mr. Vitek adds.