Selective Solder Mask Deposition by Inkjet


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Figure 3: Selective deposition of solder mask.

Starkey: I’ve enjoyed listening to what you've been saying and seeing some examples of what you have been able to achieve with this equipment and the materials that you've effectively helped develop. It's opened up a whole new area of thinking for me in terms of realizing what is achievable by not presuming, “This is the way we've always done it, so this is the way we'll always do it.”

Valeton: And that kind of change in thinking is what we need to push into the market this vanguard technology until everybody starts understanding, including making sure that designers recognize the possibilities offered by our inkjet solder mask printing solution.

Starkey: In my experience, most designers only know about putting solder mask down in the places where they traditionally put solder mask down—things like the benefits of inkjets being able to stop mask going into holes where you don't want it. The ability to deposit selectively in different areas and thicknesses is where we need to bring it to their attention. If I were a designer, I would produce my printed circuit layout and as part of that data package and supply you with the solder mask information. Have you spoken with the suppliers of the CAD systems to make them aware of what you can achieve with the equipment such that they can build those features and facilities into their CAD software? Or if you want to do selective deposition of different thicknesses, is that something that you have to write your own program to achieve, or can that be part of the manufacturing data package?

Valeton: It would have to be part of the entire package. Whereas the designer defines an image, the printer will always print a bitmap. One thing we must be careful about is if the designer makes a very small feature in the rasterizing process to transfer that image to a bitmap, we must ensure that it does not get lost because if you have a very thin dam, it has to be always there. And that's a part we have taken care of in working together with software companies that have these kinds of programs. Hopefully, it points towards a completely integrated CAD/CAM interface where the designers say, “This design is going to be printed with an inkjet printer,” and that program knows exactly where to extract specific information. Then, it's automatically sent to the printer. The printer knows from a barcode on the PCB that it must print a particular product with a certain process, so there's little to no operator intervention needed as long as the CAD designer knows how to output it and the CAD suite offers that possibility.

Starkey: This opens up a whole new opportunity for looking at things from a slightly different angle. Forget about the standard practice of the past, and look at what opportunity exists for the future.

Valeton: Absolutely. Generally, I think you will see a change in many applications from an analog to a digital technique. We see that the PCB industry tends to be somewhat conservative in this, and changes may be slow. But once we get more and more people convinced of the possibilities, then we have a very good position to work from.

Starkey: If we can help in bringing the potential capability of this sort of system to the attention of people, then you're achieving something.

Valeton: Also, from the customer perspective, they may have to understand and hopefully accept that the product may look slightly different, but that doesn't mean the functionality is any different.

Starkey: In many cases, I think the functionality will be improved.

Valeton: Yes, and the cost will be reduced. One of the many comments we get from the customer’s OEM clients is, “Yes, but it is different,” and that's something that we need to manage. That is the sort of thinking that we need to change.

Starkey: Change people's perception of it. Get people not to look back but to look forward and see what can be achieved.

Valeton: Absolutely. Thanks, Pete.

Starkey: Thank you, Joost. It has been a very interesting conversation.

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