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88 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I NOVEMBER 2019 Electroless plating is a popular method in manufacturing printed circuits or flexible cir- cuits. The electroless plating concept is not new; it is used to protect conductors against oxidation. However, it is not the default pro- cess for printed circuit manufacturing. Many circuit manufacturers do not have in-house plating capabilities and rely on plating shops for surface finishing. Over the last decade, there has been remark- able progress with electroless plating. Nowa- days, material supplies have many new chemi- cals available for the plating process, especial- ly for surface treatments. Chemical suppliers are confident that circuit manufacturers can secure metallizing on plastic substrates with- out making a large investment. I participated in R&D projects during the '90s, where we tried to produce flexible cop- per laminates without adhesive layers. Man- ufacturers employed different processes, such as casting and sputtering, to generate new laminates. The combination of electro- less plating and electrical plating was consid- ered a candidate because it called for very little investment. Unfortunately, the chemical plating processes could not provide a secure enough bond strength between the base film and copper conductors and was not worth pursuing. New plating chemicals are available to use with the plating process and provide a reliable bond strength with flexible laminates. Howev- er, plating shops do not follow the recipe line by line and create their own process condi- tions by adding supplemental treatments to in- crease the cost performance. Usually, chemical costs are significant. Electroless Plating for Flexible Circuits EPTE Newsletter by Dominique K. Numakura, DKN Research LLC

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