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ESCATEC advances PCB identification, traceability

20 Jun 2012

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ESCATEC has included a laser marking machine for PCB to its production facilities at Heerbrugg in Switzerland. According to the company, the CO2 laser beam is used to change the surface structure of the solder resist to give a clear and permanent marking on the surface of the PCB.

The marking can be for machine-readable codes as well as text, graphics and logos, which show up as white areas on the PCB. The fully automated process writes the data for each board directly from the ERP system and verifies it with a built-in reader.

"Laser marking provides a permanent method of marking PCBs so there is no danger of the label coming off. The new system is very quick so it has speeded up our process flow. Process times are further speeded up because the DataMatrix Codes can easily be read by other machines to ensure correct processing," noted Martin Muendlein, ESCATEC's engineering manager. "We have the same system in our Malaysian volume production facilities to ensure continuity throughout all our manufacturing sites. It continues our philosophy of investment to provide customers with all the benefits of the latest in manufacturing technology."

The laser marking process offers several advantages. The labeling is permanent and cannot fall off, be altered or removed. The marking position is very accurate to within ±0.1mm. Machine reading of the markings provides a very high level of traceability, as each board can be automatically tracked and logged through the different process stages. The DataMatrix Code remains readable even if parts of it are damaged or obscured and, unlike a bar code, it can be read from any direction. The 4x4mm DataMatrix Code can contain up to 36 digits or 25 alphanumeric characters.

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