We use them every day but hardly notice them: printed electronics. While we often think of electronics as conventional printed circuit boards and electronic devices, printed electronics have found their way into many industries, products and areas of life. This emerging technology can be produced relatively cost-effectively and brings many new technological possibilities that were not possible before. Laser technology is used to produce these electronic innovations because it offers many advantages.
Be it smartphones, packaging, household appliances, textiles or even food and vehicles - the scope of application for printed electronics is huge. Using adapted conventional printing methods, such as ink-jet printing, screen printing or even offset printing, special pastes (e.g. conductive silver paste) and polymers are applied in extremely thin layers to different support materials. In most cases, plastic films, paper, textiles, but also other organic materials, are used as support material. The end products are used as printed antennas, sensors, displays, smart labels or keyboards, among other things. So wherever electronics need to be produced cheaply and on large surfaces as a flexible material. Printed solar cells are also being used more and more frequently.
As with conventional printing, printing is either on roll or sheet material. Then the electronic components must be cut out with maximum precision, in doing so the sensitive electronics must not be damaged. The laser technology offers numerous advantages, because it is completely flexible in terms of quantities and geometries but also materials. When printing, if, for example, registration marks are also printed, camera systems in the laser can determine the exact position of the workpieces and thus ensure a highly precise cut. As a general rule, CO2 laser sources are used, depending on the purpose of the laser, automated galvo systems as well as flatbed lasers make sense.
For print products, Trotec offers a wide range of laser systems, including the GS series. The GS1200 was specially developed for large print runs with printed sheet material. The printed sheets can be conveyed to the laser via variably configurable automated transport systems and cut there. The integrated camera system detects the position of the workpieces and automatically calculates the exact cutting path. Of course, the laser software can be connected to the ERP system so that information such as the number, 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. Either conventionally via feeders and stackers, but also via workpiece carriers in circulation with a loading and unloading station. Typically, CO2 laser sources of 100 watts or higher are used. 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 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 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 lasers such as the Speedy series are ideal for cutting and engraving. They are available in various sizes and laser powers. A detailed overview of the available machine sizes and machine options and applications can be found here.