Direct structuring of PCB-free electronic components by laser
From: Author: Publish time:2021-09-10 15:23 Clicks:23
Laser direct molding (LDS) is a special success story. For nearly 20 years, electronic conductor paths have been applied directly to plastic parts in the mass production process, and more information is available in the vibration chain.
LDS allows electronic components to be made into flexible geometry. Thanks to this process, smartphones, hearing AIDS and smartwatches are getting smaller and more powerful.
LDS can produce electronic components with flexible geometry. This process makes electronic products (such as smart phones, sensors or medical devices) smaller and more powerful. Automating the manufacturing process also makes it more economically attractive.
Less and less space is available for electronic components, so alternatives to traditional printed circuit boards are needed. LDS enabled further miniaturization and made possible increasingly complex geometric designs.
It is a stable and reliable process that has been established in industries where quality is critical, such as medical technology or safety-related components in the automotive industry.
LDS process can realize 3d assembly
Direct laser structuring enables the production of 3D-MID (electromechanical integrated equipment) components. With 3D-MID, electronic components can be mounted directly onto a 3D substrate without the need for a circuit board or connecting cable.
The substrate is manufactured using an injection molding process so that the thermoplastic material has a non-conductive inorganic additive.
The additive in the material is "activated" by a direct laser structure so that the plastic material can accommodate electrical conductor paths. The laser beam writes out the area used for the conductor path and produces a slightly rough structure.
The released metal particles form nuclei for subsequent chemical metallization. In this way an electric conductor path is applied to the region marked by the laser. Other regions of the three-dimensional matrix remain unchanged.
Plastic parts can then be assembled using a standard SMD process similar to a regular PCB. It is also suitable for soldering in reflow furnaces.
The wide application of laser technology
Harting 3D-MID AG is the largest supplier of 3D-MID components outside Asia. Harting uses a high-performance laser system in the LDS process in which three lasers operate in parallel, each offset 45 degrees. With the help of an additional axis of rotation, the laser can be processed from all sides (360 degrees) simultaneously.
The technology can create flexible geometric shapes, such as reflector shells or LED lights. Although the minimum conductor path thickness is 16 to 20μm, the conductor path is suitable for demanding automotive parts or applications with currents up to 10 A - for example, for heating coils in cameras to prevent fogging of optical elements.
Dimensions and position -- Minimum distance between conductor paths (a) : 50 -- 150μm. Minimum conductor path width (b) : 50 -- 150μm Radius (r) : 0.2 mm
Frequent changes or dimensioning of new components during the electronics development phase can result in high adjustment costs during the normal PCB production process. Instead, the laser layout can be adjusted very flexibly by using the parameters of the laser control software. For this purpose, no change in injection molding is required.
It is also easier to prototype using LDS than traditional processes. Harting can produce plastic substrates using LDS-compatible materials and 3D printing. Injection molding can also be used with inexpensive prototyping tools.
New trends in LDS processes
Several aspects of LDS technology have been improved and further developed over the past few years. The laser's operating area has been expanded from 160 x 160 x 80 mm to 200 x 200 mm x 80 mm, enabling higher package density and the ability to handle larger parts.
By optimizing the servo unit and mirror to guide the laser beam, the working speed of the laser can be doubled to 4 m/s, thus significantly reducing the processing time. Improvements in optics have made it possible to use lasers with diameters of 100μm and lasers with fine focus of 50μm to process smaller structures.
Harting is the only 3D-MID manufacturer in the world with three laser systems with 50μm fine focusing optical systems. With this finely focused laser, even smaller conductor path gaps can be achieved. As a result, many conductor paths can be created on the same component and higher packing densities can be achieved.
It is also used in security technology, among other things, because conductors that are closely spaced and intertwined can trigger security alarms with minimal physical interference.
Progress in materials and economics
Only specially selected thermoplastics can be certified by LDS process; These are all available from stock. The process can be further improved by making specific adjustments to customers' plastic materials: The process harting uses is to add LDS additives to uncertified materials to make them compatible with MID.
By using colored pigments and special LDS additives, MID plastics can achieve specific RAL or Pantone colors. Special RF characteristics can also be achieved depending on the frequency range by selecting the right additives.
Component carriers - electronic components - such as leds, ics, photodiodes and sensors - can be connected directly to the component carriers. The assembled part bracket can then be treated as a standard SMD part.
To further improve the cost effectiveness of the manufacturing process, Harting relies on automated robotic systems.
The LDS laser system is equipped with a rotating indexing table, so one part can be inserted or removed while another part is still being processed. The feeding and unloading process is automated by Harting using robots.
This improves productivity and autonomy, while also being integrated into automated production processes. Additional automation steps are provided in the injection molding process.
Here, the robot is also responsible for dismantling the injection molded parts. The use of robotics also improves the precise reproducibility of the process, thereby improving overall product quality.
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