At CMM, Applied Films introduced the SmartWeb FPC “cost effective” sputter coating metallizing machine for production of two-layer electroplated adhesive-less flexible copper clad laminates – the basic material for flexible printed circuits used in products such as mobile phones, notebooks and palmtops. Its sputtering technology is said to offer a better alternative to the commonly used cast and laminating processes for flexible copper clad laminates.
According to TechSearch Market Analysis, the market for the latest generation of flexible printed circuits has grown from $4 billion volume in 2002 to $6 billion in 2004 – an increase of the yearly output of flexible copper laminate from 5Mm2 to 9Mm2. Currently 47 per cent of two-layer laminates are produced by electroplating, cast represents 44 per cent and 9 per cent are manufactured by lamination. So, says Applied Films, there is great potential for the sputtering technology to replace and improve the commonly used manufacturing techniques.
Furthermore, the company stresses, roll-to-roll film coating is a cost effective preferred technology. It has installed over 500 roll-to-roll vacuum coating systems worldwide in the last couple of years, more than 20 of which were sputtering roll coaters.
The SmartWeb FPC system can coat PET and PA films with a standard copper seed layer at an operational speed of 3m/min on a production cycle of more than five consecutive days. Unlike other conventional systems, says the company, it allows double-side metallization in a two-pass production. The machine is also claimed to offers a small footprint, a height of less than 2.5m and a “cleanroom compatible” design.
The SmartWeb FPC is now commercially available, and a machine for customer trials has been installed at the Applied Films facility in Alzenau, Germany.
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