PCBs of Today & Tomorrow: Rigid, Flex & 3D

A recap of the February 8, 2017 Engineering Mixer & Luncheon with guest speaker, Richard Ellinger

3D circuitry was a hot topic at the Engineering Mixer & Luncheon on February 8. Our presenter, Richard Ellinger of Circuit Source, was fresh from a trip to Europe and had samples of 3D circuits to show us, in addition to providing valuable information about rigid and flex circuitry.

Learning How It’s Made

The full room learned first about the growing production capacity for PCBs in Europe. Next, Richard explained how multi-layer PCBs are made – a complex process of many steps. This provided valuable insight to designers, giving a better understanding about why they may need to specify tolerances for PCBs. It also provided insight into how to select board shops and into the considerations that contract manufacturers (like OCM) must make to meet project specifications.

Richard also touched on the near future – new materials and new chemistries that are coming on board. Ceramic substrates, thick and thin films, and 3D parts.

3D Circuitry Applications & Costs

With some sample products to show-and-tell, Richard introduced 3D circuitry, a potentially destructive (not merely disruptive!) technology. Developed in the early 1990s, 3D circuits are created by molding plastic products, ablating pathways onto the plastic surface with a laser, then applying copper to the pathways. More than 40 different types of plastics can be used, each with unique heat tolerances and properties.