PiXDRO JETx-M Inkjet Printer for PCB Manufacturing

During IPC APEX Expo 2019, Meyer Burger will be honored for a novel inkjet-printed solder mask solution for PCB, combining a dedicated production inkjet printing system based on PiXDRO product line, Agfa’s unique DiPaMat solder mask ink, and advanced printing strategies for optimized layer deposition across a PCB.

How is this product innovative?

The unique benefits of inkjet are numerous and compelling. It is additive, digital, non-contact, fast, material-saving, precise and cost-effective. However, until now the technology was not fit enough to meet the accuracy, physical and electrical standards for applying solder mask on PCB. Recently, revolutionary advances have been made in these areas, so the industry can now take advantage of all the benefits inkjet is offering.

Meyer Burger has been working closely with Agfa, developing a comprehensive inkjet solution to accurately and reliably print solder mask onto PCBs, to meet all the applicable industrial standards.
Furthermore, this inkjet technology has enabled very precise layer deposition across a PCB, allowing adaptable and improved coverage at copper edges and higher breakdown voltages. Edge coverage can be tuned in the recipe software, from the typical minimum of 10µm up to 50µm, in order reach breakdown voltages of 4000V or higher.

Accurate and fast layer deposition is enabled by making use of the most advanced printheads, combining the smallest possible ink droplets of 2pL with extremely high jetting frequencies of up to 100kHz, and sophisticated proprietary printing algorithms. For 18 x 24” panel size, a throughput can be achieved of up to 80 sides per hour, with a roadmap to significant higher throughput enabled by extended printhead arrays and process optimization.

In addition, substantial materials savings can be achieved by selective deposition of solder mask, applying more material where needed on the copper, and less material on the PCB substrate. Compared to conventional photo patterning techniques, solder mask saving can be as much as 50%, and the use of development chemicals can be 100% eliminated.

Overall cost per panel reduction will depend on the actual PCB lay-out and process parameters, but typically can be in the range of 20-40%, taking into account total cost of ownership (CoO) considerations. Compared to LDI patterning, the savings can be even up to 80%.

What was the need or challenge that the innovation sought to address?

PCB makers are under severe pressure to reduce their environmental impact, e.g. by reducing chemical waste and using less material and energy. Smart application of inkjet printing significantly contributes to this objective, with solder mask savings up to 50%, and more than 80% chemical waste and clean water usage reduction. Because the number of main process equipment is reduced from three (coating, photo, developing) to one (inkjet printing), energy consumption is cut by 60%, at least. 

Also, the need for fast product changes and prototyping is fulfilled by applying a digital and additive patterning technique, which is especially of great interest to PCB makers who serve industrial, automotive, medical and aerospace markets. Particularly in these HMLV (high-mix, low-volume) industries, the logistics of generating and maintaining the pattern information (hard masks versus digital files) is drastically simplified.
In a high mass production environment, the inkjet solution is expected to gain great cost and material savings, because several traditional processes are being eliminated, notably photo exposure and developing steps. The total CoO saving can be 20-40%.

The challenge for alternative technologies compared to traditional photo techniques was to maintain or even improve process robustness and productivity. With the above described inkjet solution these concerns are being addressed.

Learn more about the PiXDRO Technology