PCB (printed circuit board) depaneling, also called singulation, is the process of removing numerous smaller, individual PCBs from a larger multi-PCB panel produced during manufacturing. The depaneling process was developed so that you can increase throughput of PCB Depanel as circuit board sizes reduced. At CMS Laser, our depaneling process has the main benefit of speed, pin-point accuracy, no tooling cost or wear, no part induced stress, and no cutting oils or some other waste.
Demand Driven by Size
As technology consistently evolve, the gadgets we use be a little more advanced and frequently reduction in size. This reduced size requires smaller PCBs. Without any set standard for PCBs, every board is made for a certain item. Therefore, this process for depaneling separate boards coming from a multi-image board is different. Production factors like stress, precision and cleanliness are paramount to keeping board defects to a minimum.
PCBs are usually manufactured in large panels containing multiple boards at any given time, but can be produced as single units if need be. The depaneling of PCBs process may be fully automatic, manual, or semi-automatic. There are many methods used, including laser PCB depaneling, within the electronics industry. Let’s examine the things they are:
The punching method is the method of singular PCB Depaneling Router being punched out from the panel with the use of a unique fixture. The punching fixture has sharp blades on a single part and supports on the other. A different die is required for every board and dies must frequently get replaced to maintain sharpness. Although the production rate is high, the custom-designed fixtures and blades need a reoccurring cost.
Boards are scored over the cut line on sides to reduce overall board thickness. PCBs are subsequently broken from the panel. Each side in the panel are scored to a depth of about 30 percent of the board’s thickness. Once boards happen to be populated, they may be manually broken out from the panel. You will find a strain put on the boards that will damage a number of the components or crack the solder joints, especially those near to the edge of the board.
Wheel Cutting/ Pizza Cutter:
The “pizza cutter” technique is a manual substitute for breaking the net after V-scoring to cut the other web. Accuracy is critical, because the V-score and cutter wheels should be carefully aligned. You will find a slight amount of stress on board which could affect some components.
Laser depaneling can be executed on boards requiring high tolerances. Depaneling occurs without physical contact, with no mechanical stress, and it is adaptable to reduce requirements via a computer controlled process. Laser depaneling is acceptable for installation in surface mount technology (SMT) lines or with board unloaders/loaders for standalone operation.
Most PCBs are routed leaving the person circuits linked to the panel frame by narrow tabs that are subsequently broken or snapped to singulate the circuits. Routing will take up hbrerp panel area as a result of wide kerf width of any physical bit.
Laser routing supplies a complete software-controlled process without reliance on any mechanical dies or blades. Laser routing can cut any shape path including curves and sharp corners. The cut kerf width could be under 20 microns, providing exceptional accuracy.
Laser routing can be carried out using either:
High-power CO2 laser (~10µm wavelength)
The CO2 laser can thermally cut through FR4, glass fibers along with other rigid and flex circuit substrates at comparatively high-speed however with noticeable heat effect on the side of the cut for many substrates.
Solid-state UV laser (355nm wavelength).
The UV laser, having a considerably smaller focused spot size, ablates the panel material with significantly less heat and a narrower kerf width. However, because of lower power levels, the cutting speed is significantly slower compared to CO2 laser and the cost/watt of UV lasers is higher than that of CO2
Generally speaking, businesses that are responsive to char and fine debris over the cut line will employ the UV laser while users who clean the circuits after singulation can benefit from the greater speed of the CO2 laser.
Laser systems for depaneling play an important role in the future from the PCB manufacturing industry. As need for Laser Depaneling carry on and parallel technology trends, like wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the need for systems that increase production line speed and lower costs for manufacturer will even carry on and rise.
In our Applications Development Lab, we assist each client to ascertain the ideal laser and optics configuration for any manufacturing process.
In this three-part series on PCB depaneling, upcoming posts will discuss the advantages and challenges of PCB depaneling, combined with the evolution of PCB depaneling with laser systems.