The electronics Printed Circuit Board industry is evolving as new production technologies become available at low cost. Direct digital printing is making inroads into the traditional photolithography and screen printing processes that have been used to manufacture PCB for the last twenty years.
Here we will focus on the use of direct digital printing to individualize PCBs just prior to their assembly. The goal is to print a unique mark on each board that can be used to identify the board. The mark must be permanent and will probably contain 1D or 2D machine readable codes along with alpha numeric characters. The marks must have a 600 DPI (dots per inch) resolution or better due to size constraints on the PCB. We will also focus on applications that require more that 1,000,000 boards per year. At these volumes automated material handling starts to become very important to the overall success of the system.
High volume PCB fabricators use screen printing with thermally cured ink to print the legends that cover each side of the board. At this time digital printing can not print the whole side of a board at a price that competes with screen printing. Even though many printers, including the PPS7000, could print all the nomenclature on the board, here we will focus on using digital printing only to print the individualizing marks.