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Use of Additive Conductive Materials to reduce cost and Environment al Impact of Printed Circuit Board Manufacture

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An "additive" technology for printed circuit board manufacture

Due to the use of highly complicated processes and expensive base materials, conventional techniques for Printed Circuit Board (PCB) manufacture are potentially extremely costly. These processes may also emit toxic pollutants and wastes that are potentially unhealthy for the surrounding environment. Alternatively, this EC funded project succeeded in developing two distinct, though interrelated technologies, that efficiently address the cost and environmental problems associated with PCB manufacture.

Industrial Technologies

The ever-increasing market of circuitry boards has imposed new demands on the European industry that needs to become innovative in order to increase its market share. Thereby, European manufacturers of PCBs have to simplify and automate current processes in order to compete with the rather cheaper PCBs produced in the far east. Furthermore, PCB manufacturers need also to meet the strict EC environmental policies on waste management, such as the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive. Current practice of PCB manufacture involves "subtractive" methods, whereby most of the surface of copper clad panels has to be etched away to form conductive tracks. In contrast, this project offers two rather "additive" technologies that concern building up of circuitry on base materials layer by layer. The latter may result in improved efficiency of the PCB manufacturing process and thus significantly reduce costs. Moreover, these technologies may also lead to many environmental benefits, including decrease of heavy metal waste, wastewater and energy use. The first technology uses screen-printing and UV curing for the conductive and dielectric layers for circuitry with a resolution of 150-250 micron tracks and spaces. The second employs a photo-defining circuit pattern in the dielectric filled with conductive material for circuitry with a resolution of 25-100 micron tracks and spaces. The UV screen technology may even lead to 40-45% cost reductions on various materials, while the second to 20%-25% respectively. Most importantly, both technologies offer an alternative, environmentally friendlier solution to the current methods of plating, etching, developing and stripping used. Furthermore, the UV screening and curing technology may also provide recycling benefits with the use of aluminium substrate which may also act as a heatsink. These technologies may find numerous applications within the automotive industry and electronics, such as touch-key, consumer, industrial and medical equipment.

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