Advanced PCB Materials and Greener Manufacturing
The world is steadily moving towards cleaner and more sustainable production of almost all types of products, including electronic. It is no wonder that the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) that forms the most crucial part of any electronic product is also undergoing a sea change in both its basic construction materials and the processes that manufacturers use for fabricating and assembling them.
For instance, paper phenolic and fiberglass were standard substrates manufacturers used for decades when fabricating PCBs. With increasing miniaturization and use of higher frequency and speeds, substrates with better characteristics such as lower losses and higher stability is the norm.
Solder with a composition of Tin and Lead was a common ingredient for anchoring electronic components to the PCB until people realized the disastrous effects harmful elements such as Lead and Chromium were leaving on the environment. As a consequence, everyone is using solder free from Lead and other hazardous elements, even though this requires manufacturing processes to be more energy-intensive than it did before.
Eminent PCB manufacturers such as Rush PCB are aware of the social needs versus convenience of production and business. They channelize their manufacturing efforts and reconcile their footprint continuously with changes in the industry. Some of the latest trends Rush PCB is working on are:
- Flexible and Stretchy PCBs
- Machine Learning Systems
- Electronic Assembly with VR and AR Simulation
- High Current and High Voltage PCBs
Flexible and Stretchy PCBs
With the use of unconventional substrates, Rush PCB is able to offer a lot of promises, especially in areas of wearable electronics, making the concept a radically exciting one. For instance, in the huge market of flexible and stretchy PCBs, Rush PCB offers three types of flexible PCB designs:
Flexible PCBs : These help Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) reduce their cost of production, the overall weight of the product, and assembly errors. By using flexible PCBs, designers can be more creative, such as for applications requiring the circuitry to wrap around an object.
Rigid-Flex PCBs : These allow better utilization of space inside an electronic product, reduce assembly errors by replacing physical wiring, and increase the reliability of the electronic product.
High Density Interconnect PCBs : These help OEMs in miniaturization of electronic products by allowing the designer to pack in more circuitry into a constrained area.
Machine Learning Systems
In all areas of life, computers and machines are playing extremely important roles. It is no wonder this is true for PCB manufacturing and assembly as well. Rush PCB uses machine learning for automated drilling and etching when fabricating PCBs. Likewise, they use automated pick-and-place machines for placing SMD components on boards.
Use of sophisticated Computer Aided Design (CAD) systems has made it easy for designers to build multi-layer PCBs and check for potential pitfalls before committing the design to manufacture. Likewise, manufacturers can cross-check the submitted design with computers to look for potential difficulties they may face during the fabrication process. Rush PCB uses Design for Manufacturing (DFM) systems to promote effective manufacturing.
Electronic Assembly with VR and AR Systems
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are influencing the training and guidance that PCB manufacturers provide for their employees. Rush PCB uses these techniques for training in areas such as assembling, quality testing, and repairing of PCBs and products. For instance, training in warehouse picking with AR is a much quicker, easier, and less stressful process compared to physically visiting the warehouse. AR is known to improve the training accuracy significantly.
High Current and High Voltage PCBs
The advent of inverters, wind farms, solar photovoltaic, and electric vehicles in the wake of reducing carbon emissions and the use of alternate sources of energy is raising the demand for high current and high voltage PCBs. For instance, Rush PCB is making PCBs that conform to a higher voltage standard of 48 VDC rather than the regular 12 VDC types.
For this, Rush PCB is making a radical shift from the orthodox methods of fabrication and assembly to newer technologies that allow cost-effectiveness, increased accuracy, and higher productivity.
Green PCB Design
Rush PCB with their special materials for PCBs and increasingly complex designs are constantly shrinking footprints and improving the reliability and functionality. They are thereby contributing significantly to technological advancements in almost all spheres of life.
The expanding role of PCBs in so many diverse areas are raising concerns related to their manufacturing, inherent safety from exposure, and the environmental impact from their eventual disposal. Therefore, eminent PCB manufacturers such as Rush PCB are increasingly using Green PCB design to address the above concerns.
With PCB technology playing an ever-increasing role in devices using renewable energy sources, the advanced manufacturing techniques of Rush PCB are helping to prototype and fabricated boards capable of higher quality and durability. This results in significantly lowering defective, discarded, and waste boards. Where earlier, devices needed multiple boards, such improved techniques now offer a single board with additional components and improved functionality.
For instance, LED lighting requires Metal Core PCBs for customized LED lighting panels. LEDs provide higher amounts of light output with power consumption significantly lower that required by older technologies. Only sophisticated Metal Core PCBs can make this happen. Rush PCB makes these highly technical circuit boards with a metal backing that act as a means for removing heat effectively from the high power LEDs.
PCB manufacturers have been accustomed to using brominated and chlorinated compounds in their manufacturing processes. However, increasing awareness of environmental health issues resulting from improper disposal of halogen-containing electronic products is increasing the demand for PCBs produced without these halogenated chemicals.
Manufacturers of PCB assemblies use TBBPA as the brominated flame retardant primarily for meeting fire-safety standards. However, simply removing TBBPA will not ensure the entire PCB assembly will comply with the requirements of OEM manufacturers, as PCB assemblies contain hundreds of other components as well. Therefore, Rush PCB uses PCB laminates that contain less than 900 ppm of elemental bromine or chlorine.
Other PCB materials such as solder paste and flux have also historically included bromine. The flux contains halogenated compounds that serve as activators helping facilitate the soldering process. For their assembly processes, especially for HDI PCB, Rush PCB is using Br-Cl-free solder and flux.
To comply with RoHS directives of not using Lead and Halogens, Rush PCB now resources some materials they use for producing PCBs. They have changed over to using laminates that contain reactive phosphorous-based flame retardants, which have different physical, thermal, and electrical characteristics. However, by using these new materials with bromine- and chlorine-free laminates, Rush PCB now ensures their products meet or exceed the earlier performance. For instance, by using bromine- and chlorine-free solder and flux, Rush PCB has overcome two major challenges during assembly, specifically known as ‘graping’ and ‘head-in-pillow’ defects.
Other countries also have their guidelines such as Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH), and other initiatives in the Asia Pacific region. OEMs manufacturing devices that contain PCBs are very vigilant with the RoHS and other standard compliance of the PCBs they source from providers.
Rush PCB customizes the fabrication processes for each PCB design, and this includes meeting requirements of lead-free manufacturing and RoHS compliance. They continuously research further methods and materials for reducing the environmental impact from manufacturing and printed circuit board disposal.