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10 PCB007 MAGAZINE I AUGUST 2019 Feature by Marc Ladle VIKING TEST LTD. The current market for selling plating lines for panel and pattern plating circuit boards in Europe is not exactly huge. Since I have been involved in selling this type of equipment, the company I work for has probably averaged the sale of one machine per year. Normally, this has been due to the replacement of complete- ly worn-out equipment or reinstatement of a factory after a fire. Within the last 12 months, we have sold the first line based completely on the requirement for advancing technology. Al- though this sample group is not large enough to see any real trend, I have a feeling that the Eu- ropean PCB industry is likely to see an increas- ing demand for machines that can achieve re- sults to meet the demands of the newest ideas for electronic printed circuit design. Examples We rarely have a blank canvas to work with. In nearly every case, we must try to fit a quart in a pint pot. Space is the enemy when it comes to integrating the best available new technol- ogy into the footprint of the previous 20-year- old plating line. To make matters worse, it is not unusual to be asked to increase the output capacity of the equipment at the same time. Increasingly, PCB design technology utilises buried and blind via holes and plated via fill is also becoming more and more common. The buried and blind holes mean that the loading on the plating equipment is multiplied by the number of different inner layer connections. The same technology means that equipment needs to deal with thinner and thinner ma- terials. Plating copper via fill typically means the tank design must be larger, so it takes up more of the valuable space available and takes a long time compared to a traditional through- hole cycle. A typical through-hole plate might take 45–60 minutes where a via hole run could be 3–4 hours. It is well known that the size of PCB facto- ries in Europe is usually much smaller than the factories in Asia. Typically, this means there is only a single plating line available to produc- tion, and this one piece of key equipment must cover every type of work which goes through the factory. Compromises must be made, and

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