We use them almost every single day but hardly ever notice them: printed electronics. We usually think of electronics as conventional circuit boards and electronic devices, but printed electronics have found their way into many industries, products and areas of life. This emerging technology can be produced somewhat cost-effectively and brings with it many new technological possibilities that may not have been possible before. Laser technology is the best way to produce these electronic innovations due to all the amazing advantages it can offer.
Smartphones, packaging, household appliances, textiles, food, vehicles... the application scope is huge. Using adapted conventional printed methods, including ink-jet printing, screen printing and even simple offset printing, special pastes and polymers are applied in thin layers to different support materials. In most cases, plastic films, paper, textiles and other organic materials are used as this support material. The end products are then used as printed antennas, sensors, displays, smart labels or keyboards. Even printed solar cells are being used more and more frequently!
Akin to conventional printing, printing for electronics is usually done on either roll or sheet material. Then, the electronic components need to be cut out with maximum precision to ensure the sensitive electronics are not damaged.
Laser technology offers many advantages - It is completely flexible in terms of quantities, geometries and even materials. For example, if registration marks are also printed to your material, a camera system within the laser machine can determine the exact position of the workpieces, and thus ensure a highly precise finish. Generally, CO2 laser sources are used here, depending on your purpose. But, automated galvo systems as well as flatbed systems can both be used.
Perfect for processing printed electronics with sheet material
For printed products, Trotec offers a wide range of laser systems, including the intelligent and innovative GS series. The GS1200 was specifically developed for large print runs with pre-printed sheet material. The printed sheets can be conveyed towards the laser machine via the variably configurable, automated transport system where it is to be cut. The integrated camera system can detect the position of the workpieces and can automatically calculate the precise cutting path. The laser software can also be connected to the ERP system so that information including the number, type and shape of the workpieces can be easily retrieved based on the given order. a huge advantage to this technology is the flexibility of the production process. From a single sheet to a series with larger print runs - any order can be adjusted and completed with minimum effort from the user.
The loading, feeding and unloading of the GS1200 depends on the respective production system. Either conventionally - via feeders and stackers - but also via workpiece carriers in circulation with a loading and unloading station. Typically, CO2 laser sources (100 Watts or higher) are used for these kinds of applications. The GS1200 is equipped with a standard 100-Watt super-pulsed CO2 laser, but can also be equipped with higher power ratings depending on your intended application. Also, the sheet size is variable. The processing field can be made variable by means of different optics as well as the laser's movable X and Z axis.
The development of new applications in the field of printed electronics is progressing quite quickly. Countless new materials and product variants are developed every single day. However, in this development, only single pieces or lower quantities occur with rapidly changing variants. Flatbed lasers like the Trotec Speedy series are truly the ideal machines for cutting and engraving applications. They are available in many different sizes and laser powers. A detailed overview of the available machine sizes, options and applications can be found here.