Electronics designers at their final design stages are faced with multiple options for preparing their circuit boards for production.
Coming to a final decision as to what method to use for routing and de-paneling boards can be challenging sometimes, it certainly depends on the design and nature of the components on the boards and even on the function of those boards.
How can we then make that choice? What choices do we have to begin with?
For the longest time now, the industry standard for routing electronic boards was mechanical CNC routers. The process was refined and redeveloped to get the best results physically possible over the years but still has many shortcomings.
Recent advancements in technology have enabled the industrialization of laser systems that are powerful enough to cut through PC board materials which opened up a whole new field for de-paneling boards.
To be able to make that choice at the initial design stages you will need to have some basic understanding of the board manufacturing process to help guide your creative juices in the right direction.
Manufacturing PC boards
Is not very different from making your own pizza (yum!). Usually after the different layers of the PC board are bonded together (dough) and the boards are chemically treated to add solder resist and silk screen layers (sauce) they go through the process of adding solder paste which bonds all the components together (cheese) and the final stage before going inside an oven to flow the solder (melt the cheese) the various electronic components are placed on the boards by a robotic pick and place machine (toppings).
No I’m not hungry while writing! The two processes are so analogous to the point where early devices used to actually cut out the boards where called “Pizza Cutters”.
Naturally, after baking your pizza pie, you need to cut into wedges and therein lies the problem of choice. You wouldn’t want your cuts to be very aggressive that you’ll end with crumbled crust pieces with so much cheese drift that would cause your toppings to fall to the side, now would you. Pizza cutters (mechanical routers) where specifically designed for that purpose (where else would you use a knife shaped like a wheel!) but what if you don’t want your cuts to be wedges or rectangles? What if your crust is thin (flex boards) or even crumbly gluten free that any physical contact will ruin a perfectly good dinner!
This is where laser routing shines (pun intended!). Laser machines are like high tech Swiss army knives when it comes to versatility (very few geometric constraints for the desired cut shapes) but they are also like Jedi light sabers when it comes to contact free cutting which means almost zero vibrations or stress to your dough or toppings without devoting too much real-estate between boards to allow for endmill travel. The tiny size of the laser beam will give you the best edge quality for your boards just like a fine tip samurai sword. With so many advantages you often get the feeling that nature is trying to tell you something!
I’m sure by now you’re probably thinking, wait a minute! Laser routing! Yeah, we tried that but the edges on our boards looked burnt and unusable.
Hold on, there are reasons for that. You probably were duped into trying the CO2 laser routers of yesteryear by one of our talentless competitors. Those legacy laser systems use heat to actually melt your boards into separation. No wonder it looked like your boards went through the seventh circle of hell!
When we say laser routers here at A-Laser, we mean business, we won’t waste your time or money with subpar services. Our de-paneling lasers are all state of the art LPKF UV laser systems. We keep up with the latest technologies so we can provide you with the best services, see, not all UV laser systems are created equal.
Older UV lasers have old laser source technologies, while promising the miraculous laser ablation process, those old sources fail to deliver adequate power for ablation at higher frequencies necessary for the process of ablation. This corners our competitors to drive their machines to the lower frequency spectrum which is really heating and not ablation at all.
Our latest LPKF laser is a MicroLine 5000 system that has the capability of delivering high power at the high frequency range giving you the best edge quality you have ever seen, instead of melting your boards we ablate them into separation just like Moses parted the Red sea, quick, clean and in manner of speaking an answer to all your prayers.
After reading this, you’re probably on your way to the closest pizza joint, your next stop after that should be A-Laser, we invite you to come by and witness for yourself the best de paneling service available anywhere. Bon Appetite!