It is a laser system that is used for depaneling, separating, and singulating individual circuit boards from an array of many boards on one large panel.
It is an alternative method with distinct advantages over other forms of PCB depaneling such as routers, dicing saws or die punches.
PCB laser cutting uses a high-powered beam to cut material based on computer software controlled parameters.
Due to the cold-ablation attributes of the UV wavelength, it is ideal for PCB depaneling as it greatly reduces the Heat Affect Zone (HAZ) allowing the beam to cut right up to the edge of your board’s components.
Other common lasers, such as CO2 (IR wavelength), create far too much heat and potential charring or carbonization of the board’s edge to be considered a viable PCB depaneling option (not to mention the inability of CO2 lasers to cut copper).
Mechanical methods are hard on the solder joints of a PCB.No Burrs
A laser-cut boards edge is smooth and clean, there is no need for further downstream processing.No particles
Lasers do not create the dust particles as generated by traditional mechanical cutting methods such as dicing saws and routers.
Therefore, any downstream cleaning can be eliminated entirely from the production line.
This is especially important for PCBs with optical components such as camera lenses, but also helps to reduce failures of on-board sensors.Versatility
Lasers are significantly more versatile than mechanical methods on both the application and material side.
They are typically able to cut, drill, ablate metal, and skive a wide variety of PCB materials such as FR4, Rogers microwave substrates, Polyimide, fired ceramics, LTCC and so on.
Cycle times for laser depaneling when processing thick materials are typically slower than using a mechanical router, however, the improvements to yield, and elimination of cleaning steps, usually puts the laser on top.
A maximum substrate thickness of more than 2 mm is often not recommended. However, this processing envelop would encompass the vast majority of all PCBs today.
The initial equipment investment can be higher than mechanical routers or saws, however the ROI is significantly faster when running costs are compared, as lasers do not require expensive carbide routing tools or saw blades to be replaced frequently.
MicroLine 2000 systems
This series can be configured with different power levels, (very thin PCBs don’t need the high power laser source) as well as different handling methods if the customer’s preference is for automated or manual loading/unloading of the PCB panels.
Traditional mechanical depaneling methods are not only noisy and dusty on the production floor, but they also tend to increase the scrap rate due to the inherent mechanical stress they impart on PCBs, especially when those include sensitive components such as sensors.
The contactless cutting of a laser not only eliminates this mechanical stress, but due to the “cold” properties of the UV wavelength components may be placed right to the edge of the PCB without damaging them during the cutting process (routers and saws need to leave a “keep out” margin of several millimeters between components and the board’s edge).
Additionally, routing tool bits are typically several millimeters in diameter which means that all the boards on a panel must have significant dead space left between each other for the router bits to fit between each board – with just a 20 um beam on LPKF’s MicroLine UV laser systems, many times another entire column or row of boards may be added to each panel by reclaiming the dead space needed for mechanical blades or routers.