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Inkjet Printed Circuit Boards

Perhaps the most interesting of Epson’s in development technologies is its Inkjet Printed Circuit Board technology; one that could do a great deal in revolutionising circuit board manufacturing – especially in portable devices.

Printed Circuit Boards, or PCBs, form the basis for most electronic devices and are made using a process called Photolithography. PCBs made using photolithographic processes are known to be very rugged, but making very thin multi-layer circuit boards is only affordable in high volume due to prohibitive the cost, complexity and wastefulness of the process.

Epson hope to change this with their Inkjet PCBs, which they claim is a far cleaner, cheaper and more efficient way of producing circuit boards for portable devices.

The process uses a combination of different inks, with a conductive silver ink used to form the circuitry and an insular ink used to create the layers. On this occasion Hisashi Aruga unveiled an example of how Epson has reduced the size of a radio clock chip by using its Inkjet PCB techniques.

It’s not the first time Epson has showcased this technology. It announced in 2004 that it had created ultra-thin 20-layer board using this technology and it has since continued to develop the process.

Portable devices stand the most to gain from this process, with it providing a number of potential options in organising circuitry in a more ergonomic way. Epson showed how it could print onto flexible film, and that it would also be possible to print circuitry directly onto plastic casings; further reducing the size and space needed for PCBs in portable devices.

If successful, this should make manufacturing portable devices easier while also providing far more flexibility in design – whether it is making devices even smaller or adding more features without upsetting the form factor and aesthetics of a device.

We’re certainly intrigued by these possibilities, and if it reaches mass production it could be of great benefit to both manufacturers and consumers.

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