The patent's inventors are Rosenblatt,
This patent was filed on
From the background information supplied by the inventors, news correspondents obtained the following quote: "The present invention relates to techniques for manufacturing printed circuit boards (PCBs). More specifically, the present invention relates to a method and apparatus for reducing wasted material during the process of manufacturing a PCB panel.
"Electronic devices typically include integrated circuit (IC) chips and other discrete electronic components which are mounted onto one or more printed circuit boards (PCBs). These electronic devices can also include other discrete components, such as a display or a battery, which are not mounted onto PCBs. The PCBs and the other discrete components are then assembled into a housing for the electronic device.
"As IC technology continues to evolve, the form factor of electronic devices has decreased. As a result, the process of packaging the PCBs and the discrete components into a housing for the electronic device becomes more difficult. For example, consider a mobile phone which includes a display, a battery, a microphone, a speaker, and an antenna. The microphone and the speaker may be located at opposite ends of the mobile phone, but both components may need to be coupled to digital signal processing (DSP) chip. Similarly, the display may need to be coupled to a graphics chip. Moreover, the DSP and graphics chips may need to communicate with a general-purpose microprocessor chip. Depending on the space constraints of the housing, the chips may be located on different PCBs. In order to facilitate communication between these chips, the PCBs on which these chips reside are electrically connected to each other and the connections between these PCBs must be routed around other discrete components, such as displays, antennas, and batteries.
"One solution to this routing problem is to use flexible PCBs. Unfortunately, the cost of manufacturing a rigid-flex PCB can be several times higher than the cost of manufacturing a rigid PCB. This extra cost is typically a function of the complexity of the manufacturing process (e.g., the number of machines and processing steps in the manufacturing process) and the amount of wasted space on the PCB panel. For example, FIG. 1 illustrates a PCB panel 100 which includes rigid PCBs 101-104 and flexible PCBs 105-106. In this system, flexible PCB 105 can be mechanically and electrically coupled to rigid PCB 101 through bond 107 and to rigid PCB 103 through bond 108. Similarly, flexible PCB 106 can be mechanically and electrically coupled to rigid PCB 102 through bond 109 and to rigid PCB 104 through bond 110. As illustrated in FIG. 1, the layout of PCBs 101-106 wastes a substantial amount of material, which cannot be used after the PCBs have been depanelized. For example, FIG. 2 illustrates rigid PCBs 101 and 103, and flexible PCB 105 which have been depanelized from PCB panel 100.
"Hence, what is needed is a method and an apparatus for manufacturing a system which includes rigid and flexible PCBs without the problems described above."
Supplementing the background information on this patent, VerticalNews reporters also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "Some embodiments of the present invention provide a process for assembling a rigid-flex printed circuit board (PCB). Rigid-flex PBCs that are to be coupled together are placed into a carrier which aligns the rigid-flex PCBs so that bond regions on the rigid-flex PCBs overlap each other. When the carrier is sent through a reflow oven, the carrier generates pressure in the bond regions so that the heat and pressure cures and sets an anisotropic conductive film in the bond regions so that the rigid-flex PCBs are mechanically and electrically coupled to each other. The heat generated by the reflow oven also reflows solder so that components placed on the rigid-flex PCBs are mechanically and electrically coupled to the rigid-flex PCBs. In some embodiments, the pressure applied by the carrier is a function of temperature. For example, a composite material with a temperature-dependent expansion characteristic can be used to apply pressure to the rigid-flex PCBs.
"In some embodiments, layouts for rigid-flex PCBs that are to be coupled to each can be severed at specified points so that the severed rigid-flex PCBs can be arranged on a PCB panel so that the amount of wasted space is substantially minimized. In some embodiments, after the layouts of the rigid-flex PCBs are severed, the layouts are further modified so that bond regions are created. These bond regions can be used to recouple the rigid-flex PCBs to each other.
"Some embodiments of the present invention provide a carrier for assembling a rigid-flex printed circuit board (PCB). The carrier can be used to align rigid-flex PCBs which are to be coupled to each other so that bond regions on the rigid-flex PCBs overlap each other. During a solder reflow process, the carrier applies pressure to the overlapped bond regions."
For the URL and additional information on this patent, see: Rosenblatt,
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