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44 PCB007 MAGAZINE I MARCH 2020 Feature by Patrick Riechel and Shane Noel MKS I ESI Editor's note: In this article, ESI's Patrick Riechel and Shane Noel address how new laser technologies and control capabilities are com- bining to increase productivity and address the challenges posed by new materials. The popularity of mobile devices and the growing use of other wearable/portable elec- tronics have created an evolving set of chal- lenges for flexible PCB manufacturers. We have phones, tablets, and other personal devices that help us to communicate, manage our time, and connect us to the internet, delivering relevant information when and where we need it. We rely on the sensors and technology in increas- ingly "smart" cars on the road to help keep us safe, and we leverage IoT devices to monitor and automate the world around us. Regardless of the technology, the market is continuously demanding smaller, more powerful and capa- ble devices. These devices need to do more, last longer, use less power, and be more porta- ble than the generation of technology that pre- ceded it—all at a more affordable price. These market demands are driven down through the value chain, forcing manufacturers to rethink their processing capabilities, reassess the processing technologies they deploy, and reoptimize the manufacturing steps they imple- ment in production. While there's no analog to Moore's Law in the world of flex PCB manufac- turing, it's obvious that, to keep up, manufac- turers of flex and rigid PCBs need to put a high priority on innovation. They need to continue to innovate and keep up, or they will lose out to those who have. It requires a commitment to developing high-yield and high-throughput processing capabilities for new materials and to processing those materials at much smaller scales and higher precision. Five-year Technology Snapshot Just five years ago, Apple introduced the first Apple Watch. At the same time, Amazon's Echo devices brought voice assistance technol- ogy into millions of homes. Google introduced Google Glass, and Oculus Rift brought VR to the masses. These devices demonstrated sig- nificant progress in interconnectivity and the role that seamless data delivery can play in our everyday lives. These devices—and others that

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