LPKF Launches New Laser Drilling System for Flex Printed Circuits

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Starkey: What are the main technical challenges when you are drilling a double-sided flexible material, where you've got copper-polyimide-copper?

Roick: One of the major challenges here is the laser technology itself. And here we are in a very good position, because we develop and manufacture our own laser sources. This gives the customer the advantage of having all the relevant laser parameters available, because we have access to all that is relevant, like average power, peak power, pulse length, pulse repetition frequency, and we are in control of them. This gives the customer the opportunity to specifically set up the parameters for the job at hand and it's very easy to change them from job to job.

Also, a benefit comes when we talk about the laser sources themselves. It's very easy for us to maintain them. We don't have any long servicing times. We have our own repair centers in China, and in Europe obviously, and also in the U.S. This is one of the major advantages of this new system—the laser technology itself.

Then, of course, it's also very important to offer the correct size for the FPCs. We have a 21 x 24-inch wide working area. You can operate either in manual loading mode if you have single sheets available, or you can also have reel-to-reel operation.

Starkey: Reel-to-reel would be a step and repeat operation?

Roick: Step by step, with maybe a 21-inch progression each time. This is like a standard in this industry.

Starkey: In a production environment, what would be a typical cycle time per panel?

Roick: This is a very difficult question because every design and every layout has its own characteristics.

Starkey: Of course, I understand. Just give a typical example.

Roick: Let us put it this way: We had one example where we had the maximum drilling performance of more than 560 drills per second. This gives you about 34,000 drills per minute and, as the usual FPC layout is in the range of some 5,000−10,000 holes, it is quite productive!

Also, where the benefit comes to FPC drilling, and what is very important is to have fiducial recognition, to have a camera that is looking along the laser beam path directly perpendicular onto the material, so as to calculate out any distortion of the material, especially when it comes to later stages of processing, when you also want to cut the FPC out of reel, for example. So, it's not only the drilling aspect, but you also have to address the cutting of the FPC as well. The laser comes again into place because obviously you have different laser parameters that are optimum for drilling and for cutting and it's really easy to change between those two requirements.

Starkey: If necessary, could you combine the two operations? Could you combine a drilling operation and a cutting operation?

Roick: Yes, that's absolutely no problem. Data can be set up with our own data software, CiruitPro, with any format—Gerber file, extended Gerber file, ODB++, whatever you want to use. It's very easy and quick to set up the production data for cutting and drilling.

Starkey: Florian, I'm very grateful for your time and for a very clear and comprehensive explanation. I wish you a very successful show and successful launch of this product.

Roick: Thank you Pete, and thanks for the opportunity to talk to you.


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