Printed electronics are used in almost all walks of life, but as we use them everyday we don't always notice them. While we often think of electronics as conventional printed circuit boards and electronic devices, printed electronics can be found in a variety of industries, products and walks of life. This emerging technology can be produced relatively cost-effectively and brings many new technological possibilities that were not previously possible. Laser technology is used to produce these electronic innovations thanks to the many advantages it offers users.
From smartphones, packaging, household appliances, textiles and even food and vehicles - the application scope of printed electronics is huge. By using adapted conventional printing methods, for example ink-jet printing, screen printing or even offset printing, special pastes (e.g. conductive silver paste) and polymers can be applied as extremely thin layers to different supporting materials. In most cases, plastic films, paper, textiles and also other organic materials, are used as support material. The finished products are then used as printed antennas, sensors, displays, smart labels or keyboards, among other products. Printed electronics are also used wherever electronics need to be produced cheaply and on large surfaces as a flexible material. Another application is printed solar cells which are also being used more frequently.
As with conventional printing, printing is done either on roll or sheet material. When laser cutting electronic components, the laser cutting must be precise, and during the laser cutting process the sensitive electronics must not be damaged. There are numerous advantages to using laser technology, including complete flexibility in terms of quantities and geometries but also materials that can be processed. When printing, if, for example, registration marks are also printed, camera systems in the laser can determine the exact position of the workpieces and ensure a highly precise cut. As a general rule, CO2 laser sources are used for these materials, depending on the laser application, automated galvo laser machines and flatbed laser plotters can be used.
For printed products, Trotec offers a wide range of laser machines and solutions, including the GS series. The GS1200 has been specially designed for large print runs with printed sheet material. The printed sheets can be conveyed to the laser using variably configurable automated transport systems and cut there. The integrated camera system detects the position of the workpieces and calculates the exact cutting path automatically. The laser software can be connected to the ERP system so that information including numbers, type and shape of the workpieces can be retrieved based on the order. A major advantage is the flexibility of the production process. From a single sheet to a series with large print runs, each order can be quickly adjusted with minimum effort.
The loading and feeding of the GS1200 depends on the respective production system. The loading of materials can take place either conventionally via feeders and stackers, as well as via workpiece carriers in circulation with a loading and unloading station. Typically, CO2 laser sources of 100 watts or higher are used for these applications. The GS1200 is equipped with a 100 watt super-pulsed CO2 laser as standard, but can be equipped with higher power ratings depending on the application. Last but not least, the sheet sizes that can be processed are variable. The processing field can be made variable by means of different optics as well as the laser’s movable X and Z axes.
The development of new applications for printed electronics is progressing rapidly. Countless new materials and product variants are developed every day. In this development, however, given that only single pieces or low quantities occur with rapidly changing variants, flatbed laser machines such as the Speedy series are ideal for cutting and engraving. Speedy laser engravers are available in a variety of laser bed sizes and with a variety of laser powers and sources. For a detailed overview of the available laser machines, options and applications, visit our laser machine section.