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PCB | March 29, 2007

New technology takes time to implement

New surface finish technology for printed circuit boards takes time to implement. Companies are very unwilling to take the risk of adopting technology that in the future may show bad results.
The Swedish company Polymerkompositer has developed surface finish technologies for PCBs, telecom filters and solar cells. The technology is based on the features of silver as a conductor. Many tests have shown promising results for Polymerkompositer's surface finishes but yet there are still no obvious openings at any company to adopt this technology. Nokia has announced that the ENIG process causes black pads and brittle solder joints and therefore Nokia has started the hunt for alternatives.

Researchers at Polymerkompositer say that they have an alternative that not only is erasing these problems but also offers lower process cost and better process safety. The ASIG process that Polymerkompositer presented as a better alternative is based on the features of silver. On top of the copper laminate a thick and dense layer of silver is applied auto catalytic which according to Polymerkompositer would result in a much stronger solder joint. The surface of silver is covered by only a few microns of gold, much less than is applied in the ENIG process, which would offer a cost save.

Even in Polymerkompositer's ESM100, which is described as a challenger to the popular Sn100C, has not shown any breakthrough. The tests of the surface finish have come out well but yet the customers to the PCB manufacturers have not paid that much of interest to specify the process in their products.

Polymerkompositer has now established a full scale production line for the process at its R&D centre in Mölndal outside of Gothenburg, Sweden to handle orders and full scale tests of the process.

"The step from lab scale to full volume is very big. Therefore it is important to us to have a kapacity to process 10-100 panels for those who want to test and evaluate the process before they eventually take it in house", Polymerkompositer's CEO Jens Andersson told evertiq.

Within the field of solar cells there have been some interesting openings for Polymerkompositer. Jens Andersson is quite restrictive with revealing information about what is coming but he reveals that he expects that Polymerkompositer soon will have a breakthrough within this field.

However it is still unknown how, or even if, the manufacturers will adopt the technology. No reports have shown that the surface finish would have negative effect on the quality of the boards and experts have expressed their confidence about this technology but there is still a lot of uncertainty and anxiousness at the PCB makers for adopting this technology since the big question is: “Will my customer request this surface finish?".

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