Circuit design and prototyping can be a tedious series of steps, developing layout files, sending them to a fabrication house, and waiting for the return of printed-circuit boards (PCBs) for evaluation. There is a way to eliminate the delays, by using the ProtoLaser S system from LPKF Laser & Electronics for in-house fabrication of PCBs from standard layout files.

Prototyping systems can bring a great deal of power and flexibility to circuit developers. Rather than sending out designs to a PCB fabrication house, and then waiting for the circuits to return for testing and evaluation, the fabrication capability can be maintained in-house to speed and simplify the process of translating computer designs to hardware. The Proto- Laser S laser-based prototyping system brings this prototyping capability to any size company, and without the use of chemicals. The ProtoLaser S system (see figure) is designed for work with many PCB substrate materials, including ceramic, FR3, FR4, and PTFE materials.

The system produces a complex digital circuit as large as 229 x 305 mm in less than 20 minutes. Structuring speed depends on the PCB material being processed. The system provides contactless processing of substrates, including flexible and adhesive-coated materials.

The ProtoLaser S system works with a solid-state laser at a wavelength of 1064 nm. The laser operates to 20 W in CW mode and can run in pulsed mode at rates from 10 to 100 kHz. The structuring speed depends on the material and the metal-layer thickness. For example, with an aluminum oxide (Al2O3) ceramic substrate coated with 5-m-thick copper, the structuring speed is 6 cm2/ min. The minimum track width is 50 m, the minimum gap width is 25 m, and the corner radius is 12.4 m.

The integrated software converts standard layout formats into production data for use by the ProtoLaser S system. The software can import a wide range of layout file formats, including Gerber and DXF format files. LPKF Laser & Electronics North America, 12555 SW Leveton Dr., Tualatin, OR 97062; (800) 345-LPKF, (503) 454-4200, FAX: (503) 682-7151, E-mail: info@lpkfusa.com, Internet: www.lpkfusa.com.

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