The Opportunities for Plasma Processing


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Starkey: On the one hand, the plasma is doing a job that you can't do with chemistry, but on the other hand, the effect of the plasma has got to be compatible with the subsequent chemistry that you're using, so you need to work in close collaboration with the chemistry suppliers and with the PCB fabricators.

Bodegom: I wouldn't go as far as saying that the processes are not possible with certain chemistry. It's just that plasma provides a number of advantages in various applications and at various stages of the process due to the fact that it has no waste. It's very compact, and there’s no real estate for a machine to set up; and of course, the exhaust of the system is clean. It provides a lot of advantages for certain types of applications, predominantly in Europe, with prototype manufacturing where plasma as a one-stop shop actually can provide a lot more advantages.

Starkey: A typical user of plasma in the European PCB fabrication industry would be someone engaged in military-type work, aerospace work, and medical work?

Bodegom: Yes, high layer count, and a high mix of different materials and in low volumes, so being able to switch from process to process very quickly by just actually selecting another set of parameters for the machine to act differently on a particular batch of boards. And that can be varied between batches.

Starkey: If we look at recent developments, enhancements, and new features of the equipment, which way are you developing and which way are you being driven by the market requirements?

Bodegom: Nordson MARCH started to introduce what they call ProVIA and MaxVIA technology roughly four years ago. It’s a little bit technical, so I might not be the best one to explain that, but in their older plasma systems, we used to have a cross pumping gas-in gas-out system. Thus, we would have the gas in at one end, and vacuum out at the other end, and then we would cross-pump that every minute; but it would really come in from the side, and go out from the side.

We also had barred electrodes. One of the advantages of those barred electrodes was that they were hollow and water cooled. What Nordson MARCH has achieved is they’ve moved from these barred electrodes to closed electrodes, and effectively therefore achieved an even higher uniformity.

One could almost say that it's easier to generate the plasma in these cells in between the closed electrodes, but also temperature-wise it's a more enclosed area per cell. The preparation process goes faster, and the process temperature is achieved faster.

Because every cell really has its own smaller area of plasma effectivity, it creates the higher uniformity. In addition to that the gas inlet system has changed and obviously with closed electrodes we’re now coming in from the top to the bottom, so every cell gets its gases very efficiently and very fast.

Starkey: Thanks for the explanation. Andre, thanks very much indeed for your time.

Bodegom: Thank you, Pete.

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