Electronics Assembly Knowledge, Vision & Wisdom
Where PCBs and Printed Electronics Meet
Where PCBs and Printed Electronics Meet
As electronics devices are applied to more and more parts of our lives, we need to continually push for better solutions.
Supply Chain

Authored By:
Chris Hunrath
Insulectro
Lake Forest, CA, USA
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Summary
Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) and Printed Electronics (PE) both describe conductor/substrate combinations that make connections. Both PCB and PE technologies have been in use for a long time in one form or another with PCBs currently the standard for complex, high speed electronics and PE for user interface, complex form factor or other film based applications.

New and innovative applications create the opportunity for promising structures. Taking advantage of the PCB shop's capability as well as the material set can help create these structures and indeed PE materials can find use in more traditional PCBs. New materials and new uses of existing materials open up many possibilities in electronic interconnecting structures.

PCB manufacturers have a complex manufacturing infrastructure, well suited for both additive and subtractive conductor processing. While built around rigid material processing (flex PCB being the exception), there are opportunities for PE substrate processing.

As electronics devices are applied to more and more parts of our lives, we need to continually push for better solutions. Fit, function, manufacturability, and cost are all important considerations. Crossing the PCB/PE boundary is a way to meet the challenge.
Conclusions
While it seems electronics are everywhere, new devices are being developed all the time. For example, wearable electronics in particular is an area that will likely see huge growth. Water conservation, energy harvesting, safety devices, not to mention communications, these are all areas of opportunity.

Too often, ideas are limited by what is familiar. We need step back and look at the materials and methods from two broad areas of electronic interconnect and view them as solutions.

The screening of resist to image conductors in the PCB has long been replaced by photoimaging. Screening technology elsewhere has not stood still. Fine line and image accuracy have both advanced. The ability to directly apply conductors or functional material could bring this technology back to the PCB shop.

New printed materials are being developed all the time. Material science makes things possible that were not, even a few years ago. Nano-particles, photonic sintering, calendering inks are just some examples.

PCB manufacturers have come to know circuit design very well. Imagine what they could do in combination with Printed Electronics.
Initially Published in the IPC Proceedings
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