InnovationLab, a printed electronics company, “from lab to fab,” recently claimed that it has achieved a breakthrough in additive manufacturing of PCBs, which in turn helps meet higher environmental standards, and claims to reduce costs for electronics production. In a research project SmartEEs2, which is funded by Horizon 2020, InnovayionLab with its partner ISRA announced the development of a manufacturing process for solderable circuit boards which are copper-based. The aforementioned circuits are screen printed and claim to be compatible with traditional reflow processes.
Commenting Dr Janusz Schinke, Head of Printed Electronics at InnovationLab, said, “This is a state-of-the-art production process, which will decrease costs and reduce logistical dependencies on suppliers while delivering three key benefits for the environment: consuming fewer materials, using less energy, and producing less waste. By the end of this year, we expect to have scaled this process to high volumes, meeting customer demands of a million solderable tracks or more.”
The additive manufacturing process for printed electronics does not utilise any toxic etchants and can run at lower temperatures of around 150 degrees celsius which can reduce energy consumption. The substrates used in the process are comparatively thinner, up to 15 times thinner compared to traditional manufacturing processes. This has the potential to reduce material consumption and the overall waste generation is also reduced.
InnovationLab has produced a prototype which uses copper ink to ensure high conductivity. Components can be mounted by using a conventional reflow soldering process, which claims to enable manufactories to switch to the new technology without any new investment or equipment. A multilayer layer printing technique, metal and dielectric, was used to produce the target specifications, a low-power temperature sensor and logger, an NFC communication interface via a printed antenna, and a small battery that is charged from a printed solar cell, making the device completely self-dependent. The new process claims to help in the manufacturing of both standard and flexible PCBs with up to four layers and can be used in product and process manufacturing for hybrid electronics.