Trackwise upgrades flexible printed circuit (FPC) manufacturing operations

07 September 2020

Fig 1. Trackwise's roll-to-roll direct imaging system situated in the newly commissioned cleanroom

Upgraded FPC production capabilities and capacity enable dramatic ramp up in overall output.

Recognised innovator of flexible printed circuit (FPC) technology, Trackwise continues to strengthen its production capabilities and capacity by investing in new equipment. The company has installed a highly advanced roll-to-roll direct imaging system and has also invested in a roll-to-roll flexible circuit laser drilling system.

Situated in the manufacturer’s recently commissioned Class 7 cleanroom facility, the new direct imaging system is able to deal with features down to dimensions of just 25µm, as well as providing significantly increased throughput. Given that the system is also suitable for use on a much wider range of photo-imageable materials, the investment provides a significant increase in capability and capacity to Trackwise’ length-unlimited FPC manufacturing.

The recently purchased high-power diode-pumped UV laser is capable of processing extremely thin and sensitive FPCs at high throughput, maintaining processing accuracies of ± 20µm over the entire panel area. An advanced web handler compensates for the continual acceleration and deceleration during production avoiding wrinkling and other stretching issues. The drill’s power and precision boosts cycle times, further improving process quality and yield.

This investment, as well as the acquisition of Stevenage Circuits Ltd (SCL) earlier this year, will enable Trackwise to significantly boost its operational throughput and address constantly growing customer interest in FPCs based on its proprietary Improved Harness Technology™ (IHT).

Fig 2. A development engineer uses Trackwise’s roll-to-roll flexible circuit UV laser

IHT enables the fabrication of ultra-thin FPCs with very fine traces that can meet any potential length requirement. Competing solutions are generally restricted to just a couple of metres. Consequently, Trackwise FPCs represent an attractive alternative to conventional cable harnesses, with substantial weight and space savings being realised, as well as better heat dissipation and heightened reliability.

The ongoing capital investment we are making into state-of-the-art equipment and cleanroom resources underlines our clear commitment to gaining greater traction for our IHT and high-precision printed antenna solutions,Philip Johnston, CEO of Trackwise explains. “Through these activities, we are now much better positioned to serve future market opportunities as they arise – supporting greater volume demands, as well as providing enhanced levels of quality.

About Trackwise

Fig 3. Unwinders and rewinders support roll-to-roll processing

Trackwise Designs plc is a UK-based manufacturer of specialist products using printed circuit technology. The Company manufactures on two sites, located in Tewkesbury and Stevenage (following the acquisition of Stevenage Circuits Ltd in April 2020). The company manufactures a full suite of advanced PCBs: Improved Harness Technology™ ("IHT"), Microwave and RF, Short Flex, Flex Rigid and Rigid multilayer products.

IHT uses a proprietary, patented process that Trackwise has developed to manufacture multilayer flexible printed circuits of unlimited length. IHT overcomes the previous length constraints of conventional flexible printed circuits (FPCs) manufacture (typically 610mm) and facilitates the replacement of conventional wire harnesses in a diverse range of applications, particularly in the aerospace and automotive sectors.

FPC benefits over traditional wiring harnesses include substantial reductions in weight, size and installation time. In addition, the consistency, reliability and performance of system interconnect are improved. Their planar nature also makes them entirely suited to embedding into composites.


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