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Technology and process developments in mature industries like the printed wiring board industry are not always easy. Many new products are evolutionary enhancements of existing processes. Often, these developments enhance the process and improve overall process control.
The concept for direct digital imaging, as an example, has been around for some time, beginning in the early 1980s. Early pioneers were Excellon Automation and Eocom, in Orange County. At that time the industry was entrenched with dry film photo imaging and, at least in the North American market, there was little interest in pioneering a concept as revolutionary as direct imaging along with its attendant issues of cleanrooms and other environmental aspects. Dry film was viewed as a more robust application. Market adoption of liquid resist was also tempered by the high cost of the liquid material versus dry film.
Often, the equipment provider has a visionary leader who brings technology changes forward, but the collaboration between the equipment provider and the consumable supplier is often not a close one, or it’s nonexistent.
As digital technology started to penetrate other applications, for example, digital cameras, the vision of lowering costs and improving image quality began to take hold. But the equipment was, and still is, very expensive and requires high-cost service contracts. Nonetheless, fabricator after fabricator began embracing the newer product offerings for primary imaging, but not solder mask, which was an entirely different requirement.
Taiyo, as the leading supplier of liquid solder mask products in North America, also had a visionary concept moving forward. During IPC APEX EXPO 2016, executives from Taiyo and Schmoll sat together and worked out a testing plan that Taiyo would implement to develop a solder mask product that met the North American marketplace needs.
Schmoll provided the equipment for the testing and development, Taiyo the development protocol, and Burkle North America the installation and maintenance expertise. The result is a solder mask product and process that is being introduced during IPC APEX EXPO 2017.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of The PCB Magazine.