The Selection of Chemical Etching Equipment for PCB Fabrication

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Congratulations! Your process development team has completed its DOEs and is convinced they are ready to scale up. The facilities crew has found space for your new operation or, even better, your manufacturing team will have a newly-built building in which to locate the project. Marketing has prepared pro forma projections on demand and even lined up the first customers. Top management has given the green light for the project. Now it is time to determine what you will be using to manufacture your product. In short, it is time to make an equipment purchase.

First Steps

What do you need right now to get started? And of equal importance, what will you need two, five, or 10 years from now to continue making the quality product in the quantities you plan to sell? Will you be running primarily prototypes for another manufacturer (or yourself)? Your products might be a mix of different sizes or on rigid or flexible substrates. Maybe you’ve landed a contract to produce 100,000 identical units monthly.

The more accurately you can gauge this question, the better idea you will have on equipment sizing. It will also help you to know at which point or points in the process you will be performing quality checks on your product. You may be able to spec out an all-in-one system where only the finished product is checked; alternatively, if it is necessary to closely evaluate the effects of each process step, if for example the develop-etch-strip (DES) process is new to you, having a separate processing line for each process may be a better choice initially.

In general, a system with multiple process steps combined will have a smaller overall footprint than separate process lines; if space is an issue it could make this decision easier. It may also result in a cost savings over a separate equipment purchase for each process.

To read the full version of this article which originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.


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