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Rigid - Flex Depanelising

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Rigid - Flex Depanelising | 6 January, 2016

Has anybody had experience in depanelising Rigid-Flex pcbs? If so what equipment do you use?

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Rigid - Flex Depanelising | 6 January, 2016

I've done more if this that you can possibly imagine. I've designed 100 or more router fixture plates. It's not always easy that's for sure. We use a Cencorp router. It does O.K. but definately a little tricky to get nice cuts in the flex only areas (rigid areas are generally easy). One trick to getting cleaner cuts is to apply a tape strip to the area being cut. The tape we used has mild adhesive on it and is a little like kapton. Kind of like friction tape I suppose. This is how some of the board houses get nice clean router lines in flex. I don't recall what it's called as we don't use it anymore as it's kind of a wash in labor between applying tape and just touching up cut areas with a nail file. If you can, have your vendors remove all tabs in flex areas. Many won't do this as it makes their process tough to control. Also, when a board house designs a panel for you, study the design and think about the router tabs and what is really needed for SMT, etc. Minimize the tabs and give yourself as much room as you can to hold onto features in the router. So, the next trick is tooling on a router. The tooling is tough to make and requires a good hold in both rigid and flex areas. It takes months to get decent at designing them. If you don't have a machine shop in house, you will spend TONS of money on tooling for depanel fixture on a router machine. Again, you need to consider that #1 when you buy a machine - it's a big time killer and money sucker (trust me, I know I design and build all the tooling here). Another thing to use on a fixture plate is called "Tacsil". It holds the flex area pretty nice as long as you keep it clean. I know I'm kinda all over the place but I'm typing whatever comes to mind. Next thing - If you have low volumes, you might just find it's easier to cut the flex tabs with an exacto knife. It's surprisingly easy, clean and fast. With that, I'll say you really, really need to look at tooling required for any given machine. If you can minimize tooling, you'll be way ahead of the game. I would look at laser depanel if you can afford it. Tooling might be easier on a machine like that but I'm not sure as I'm stuck with a router at least for a while.

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Rigid - Flex Depanelising | 7 January, 2016

What SWAG said.

We use a PCB Router exclusively for rigid flex assemblies. On a side note, we have begun to save fixturing costs by using 3D print technology to produce many of the fixtures, for both rigid and rigid flex. We can design and print literally within a few hours. See attachment.

I've run some laser de-paneling, and my impressions after a year were that it was finicky, and it stunk. Literally. Even with the large vacuum pulling vapor and particulate from the cut sites, the smell was pervasive. Not bad, sorta like gunpowder.

SWAG has given you the main keys, though.



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Rigid - Flex Depanelising | 12 January, 2016

Very cool - we're looking at 3D, too. I spend so much time designing then tweeking so it can be run on a 3 axis mill. 3D would make it easier! Good to know about laser, too. I always wondered the realities of it.

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