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8 PCB007 MAGAZINE I OCTOBER 2022 A Clearer Image Out of all the process steps in a fabrication cycle, imaging may be the most critical. is is where the design begins to take a physical shape, where the theoretical world meets the physical world. Much like photography, PCB imaging is a nearly magical process. I'll bet the first tech- nologists to use a Gerber Science photoplot- ter to create a PCB felt a lot like Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre, trying to coax a Daguerreotype photograph into life in the 1830s. e primary method of imaging has evolved quite a bit over the last six or seven decades, from screening to liquid photoresist to dry film and then to aqueous dry film. Now laser direct imaging has created a world of possibili- ties that were unthinkable with film. Despite all the advantages of direct imaging, the equipment is expensive—nearly seven fig- ures—and there's no automated DI system for lower-volume fabricators. Nor is there a "turn- key" DI system available yet. You may wind up buying a DI machine from one company and the supporting soware from another. Yes, the "old-school" film imaging systems have a big advantage over DI: ey're com- pletely automated. Will DI ever replace film imaging completely? Probably not in my life- time. Some smaller shops may send this job through a 20-year-old etcher. Your system The Shaughnessy Report by Andy Shaughnessy, I-CONNECT007

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