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A dream come true

Laser direct imaging from a user’s perspective. By Martin Morrell.

More than three years have passed since the prospect of laser direct imaging was presented as a more cost effective method for running small quantities and prototype printed circuits. It was obvious, though, that it could offer much more - improved quality, no printed defects, perfect registration, every panel scaled to fit, inner layers registered without tooling, soldermask with perfect fit, and every circuit image with a unique serial number.

As the new millennium approached, a number of systems were being developed. Some had already reached the market and others were still in development. DDi faced a dilemma: buy now or wait for the next generation of tools. If now, would an ultraviolet system using 'standard' yellow light conditions, or an infra red or visible light system be best?

The decision was made and the DP-100 system - a joint development between Orbotech and Jenoptik - was chosen. Built around a 4W uv laser, it offered 4000dot/in, a claimed minimum line capability of 50µm and accuracy of +/-10µm (+/-20µm front to back). While the same could be achieved with film, yield falls dramatically when printing with artworks below 100µm and registration is difficult with any slight change in temperature or humidity. Also, dry film resist vendors had been developing more sensitive photo resist to work with laser direct imaging and developments were taking place in laser power with the prospect of a solid state uv laser.

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Author
Graham Pitcher

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