We’ve talked about the various ways photonic soldering simplifies the soldering process, like how the PulseForge can be thought of like a grill. Here, I’m sharing an example of how photonic soldering can help engineers overcome design limitations they face when creating new devices for the 3D world around us, while traditional electronics designs have been constrained to 2D (rigid) substrates. We can overcome these limitations using photonic soldering.
The videos below show a line of LEDs soldered to FPCB substrates with SAC305 solder paste using photonic soldering in a PulseForge Batch tool. A similar processing condition is used to solder on a flat substrate, as well as on curved substrates with a radius of curvature of 10 mm and 20 mm. As we’ve shown elsewhere, we have placed cameras onto the processing sample tray to capture the photonic soldering process in situ. Ex situ microscope images show that the solder joint formed with a good wetting angle and the LEDs function as expected. The PulseForge flash lamp head and wide photonic soldering processing windows are what enable us to solder on the curved surface while avoiding damage to the FPCB and white acrylic substrate.
Since the widespread adoption of smartphones, we’ve all grown accustomed to thinking about our electronics and devices beyond the traditional boxy, tethered, and board-based artifacts of earlier eras. These days, we’re now used to thinking about smart devices, wearables, and the Internet of Things. One exciting R&D area crucial for realizing the IoT is Mechatronic Integrated Devices (MIDs) and In-Mold Electronics (IMEs). MIDs and IMEs enhance the integration of IoT devices by allowing small chips and components to be made onto ‘boards’ that are conformal, flexible, and shaped-to-fit in ways that would be impossible for traditional PCB or even FPCB without adding weight and bulk.
Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute, writing to the 2021 International Congress Molded Interconnect Devices, have been working hard on MIDs and IMEs and say that “the close networking of any physical objects (via sensors, actuators, mobile devices) with digital services (via software, digital networks) in the Internet of Things (IoT) is a key element in the implementation of powerful systems. A circuit carrier that connects the semiconductor components (e.g. microprocessors, memory, sensors) and enables them to be embedded in the product is essential for this. In particular, spatial integration, an increase in the density of functions and the associated miniaturization play a decisive role. The multitude of different, individual machines, products and systems on the one hand, however, is contrasted by classic silicon-based, two-dimensional assembly and connection technologies from mass electronics… A three-dimensional printed circuit board is only possible using complex folding technologies or by means of fully flexible foil conductors. The potential of full three-dimensionality is not fully exploited.” 
We’re happy to talk about how we can help develop new MID and IME devices and technologies!
 F. Hemmelgarn, P. Ehlert, T. Mager, C. Jurgenhake, R. Dumitrescu, and A. Springer, “Evaluation of different additive manufacturing technologies for MIDs in the context of smart sensor systems for retrofit applications,” 2021 14th Int. Congr. Molded Interconnect Devices, MID 2021 – Proc., no. Mid, 2021, doi: 10.1109/MID50463.2021.9361628.
Written by Harry Chou
Harry Chou is an Application Engineer at NovaCentrix developing new processes with partners and customers, as well as building new technologies within the company. He tackles technical challenges systematically to ensure all collaborators have visibility into experimental plans and results. His collaborations extend beyond the NovaCentrix facility in Austin to companies and institutions all over. He is working to show how photonic processes and functional nanomaterials can impact a broad range of technologies. Harry’s industry experience includes startup and entrepreneurship ventures with novel nanomaterials, as well as in characterization and analysis with semiconductors. Harry has published and reviewed dozens of articles for scientific journals and holds a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin where he researched synthesis, characterization, and applications of novel nanomaterials. He also holds a BS in Materials Science and Engineering from UC Berkeley.