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PCB-Aug2017

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40 The PCB Magazine • August 2017 ing the first side, the panel is automatically flipped over to print the second side. The flex- ibility of being able to print batches of 1 or 100 with virtually no changeover times and a very steady cost-per-print is very attractive. It also has AOI built in to check the im- age before it is delivered to the etch machine, so there is excellent security to make sure that there are no issues with any of the jets in the print heads for every panel that is printed. The etch resist used on the Lunaris machine is supplied by Dow Chemical and this also has a lot of potential for wider use, as it can also be used as an electroplating resist. The nature of the resist once it has been applied to the panel is reasonably robust and it also strips easily and cleanly as long as you are able to achieve strip- ping temperatures of around 65°C. The process is not currently a high-density solution. Drop-on-demand printing technology has a limitation on the resolution that can be achieved as each drop must have enough mass to travel across the air gap between the print head and the panel without drifting or distort- ing. This means there is some limitation on the line and space that can be achieved; 0.150 mi- crons (6 mil) or greater is quite comfortable on this machine. This technology aligns perfectly to the target products for the BATM factory so I must say this looks like it will be an excellent machine for them to use. I had not previously visited Romania and was not really sure what to expect. I knew the factory was brand new and most of the staff had not previously been involved in making printed circuits. I should not have worried. The Roma- nian people are a credit to their country. They are hard-working and very conscientious, but also very friendly and helpful towards anyone who is visiting them. I have added Romania to the list of countries that I would visit for plea- sure if the opportunity presents itself. There are areas of the country which have staggering nat- ural beauty and, compared to the UK, the cost of accommodation and food is extremely rea- sonable. I am sure other companies will follow where people like Driver are leading the way. It makes good commercial sense to manufacture in a country where the labour costs are relatively low—especially in printed circuit production, where the personnel costs are a substantial pro- portion of the overall cost of the product. I am also sure the future looks good for Romania and the Romanian people, with many companies wanting to invest in a low-cost manufacturing base within the European union. Romania is a perfect option. As I drove south from Hungary into Romania it became obvious that some sub- stantial electronics companies have already es- tablished factories to benefit from the favour- able economic conditions. I am sure this will be a growing market for years to come. There are quite a few associated benefits to this new print technology. Factory real es- tate in Europe is expensive and an opportunity to cut out so many machines in one go makes the small footprint of the Lunaris very attrac- tive. Add in the savings in power and water use and the case gets stronger and stronger. Then there is also the saving in process time, which is a big advantage in the fast turn-around Europe- an market. It is possible to be etching the circuit literally minutes after the manufacturing data has arrived in the factory. I have a lot of respect for people who are pre- pared to take a step forward and try new tech- nology. This is only the second Lunaris machine working in a production environment and I un- derstand the other machine is mainly printing resist for electroplating. To move our industry on, it is critical that we continue to have peo- ple like Steve who are prepared to invest in new technology. I work for an equipment supplier but I have no commercial interest or influence with either Mutracx or BATM Systems. The equipment I have installed there is much more conventional in its nature. I am genuinely interested in their new process and will be watching closely to see how they progress. I wish them every success. PCB Marc Ladle is director at Viking Test Ltd. To contact Ladle or to read past columns, click here. WHY IS THE DEVELOPER MISSING AT BATM SYSTEMS' ROMANIA FACILITY?

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