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February 2017 • The PCB Magazine 25 one example. Eliminating the above-mentioned cost adders further enhances the cost picture of inkjet printing. Equipment Requirements for Solder Mask Printing Inkjet printing of legend ink has already been widely accepted; the PCB industry has familiarized itself with digital manufacturing and acknowledged its merits. However, a pro- duction-worthy inkjet equipment solution for PCB solder mask printing has some very specif- ic requirements that significantly differ from a legend printer. This includes high precision and fast moving motion stage, high-precision vision system, and raster image processing, to name a few. In a production system all these elements need to combine in such a way that they maxi- mize quality and productivity and minimize cost. Figure 4 shows the different relevant com- ponents of a solder mask printer. Designs for manufacturing are usually gener- ated via a CAD program that stores its designs in one of the various vector file formats, typically in Gerber RS-274x format. Vector files represent designs in terms of coordinates, lines, arcs and other elements that can easily be manipulated by operations such as translation, rotation and INDUSTRY 4.0—INKJET TECHNOLOGY IS CHANGING THE WORLD OF PCB MANUFACTURING Cost Benefit of Inkjet As always, in challenging manufacturing in- dustries "cost is king." Based on data from PCB manufacturing operations, we can explore the actual cost savings associated with direct print- ing of solder mask material. When comparing the traditional photoli- thography process as described above, it be- comes apparent that inkjet has a large impact on a number of cost factors. First of all, the cost of capital equipment is an obvious contributor. Secondly, the cost of the traditional processing sequence includes more consumable materials including photomasks and the additional chem- icals required for the photo process including their disposal cost. The cost of water consump- tion, waste water treatment and containment of solvents are significant in most operations. Less obvious cost factors are labor cost and floor space. Besides the cost savings potential, this of- fers the opportunity to increase output with the same labor force and factory space. The negative environmental impact of the traditional process is difficult to quantify and therefore not being considered as a direct cost factor. Nevertheless, the need for large scale photo litho operations can have a significant impact on permitting of new factory space or expansions, just to give Figure 4: Meyer Burger JETx solder mask PCB production system with various components indicated.

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