Electronics Assembly Knowledge, Vision & Wisdom
Enclosed Media Printing as an Alternative to Metal Blades
Enclosed Media Printing as an Alternative to Metal Blades
This paper explores the latest developments in enclosed media print head technology and how it can impact the bottom line.
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CAD/CAM/CIM/EDA, Circuit Board Handling, Clean Room, Cleaning Operations, Component Insertion, Component Prep, Dispensing, Feeders, Fume Extraction, Hand Tools, Labeling/Marking, Lasers, Material Handling, Odd Form, Ovens/Curing, Packaging, Stencil Printing, Repair/Rework, Soldering and more.
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Authored By:
Michael L. Martel
Speedline Technologies Inc.
Franklin, Massachusetts, USA

Summary
Fine pitch/fine feature solder paste printing in PCB assembly has become increasingly difficult as board geometries have become ever more compact. The printing process itself, traditionally the source of 70% of all assembly defects, finds its process window narrowing. The technology of metal blade squeegees, with the aid of new materials, understanding, and settings such as blade angle, has kept pace with all but the smallest applications, e.g., 200μ - .50 AR and 150μ - .375 AR, which have been pushing blade printing technology to its limits.

Enclosed media print head technology has existed, and has been under increasing development, as an alternative to metal squeegee blade printing. Until recently, the performance of enclosed print heads had been comparable to the very best metal squeegees, but advances in enclosed print media technology have now made it a superior alternative to squeegee blades in virtually all applications.

Conclusions
Enclosed media printing technology is a suitable replacement for metal squeegee blades particularly for demanding fine pitch applications and mixed low and high volume paste consumption applications. The ability of enclosed media printing to successfully meet the volume fill requirements of ever-shrinking aperture sizes and lopsided aspect ratios is sufficient justification. Additionally, the paste savings over squeegee blade printing are significant, so much so that in the current economic climate, these cumulative savings can contribute to a relatively quick payback on the equipment investment, and have a measurable effect on the "bottom line."

Initially Published in the IPC Proceedings

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