Eurocircuits Printed circuits blog

What keeps us busy at Eurocircuits, projects we are working at, new idea's, background information and a platform where you can participate, give your opinion and guide us to what is important for you as an electronics developer

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Posted by   Luc Smets  on 19 May 2015  | Posted under   eC-projects Hits: 260

WORLD PREMIERE LAUNCHED IN BELGIUM:
SMART LETTERBOX THAT ENABLES HOME PACKAGE DELIVERIES WHEN YOU ARE OUT

Concerns about delivery and complex returns from home are key reasons for consumers to avoid online purchases. Now, parcelhome.com has developed an all-new way for Belgian parcel delivery services to solve both problems at once. With its smart letterbox, this start-up has developed a package delivery system at home that both couriers and consumers can open using a smartphone app.

Carriers DHL Parcel, GLS and DPD see an opportunity to improve their service to consumers. Both carriers and consumers lose when no one is home to receive a package. At present, 15% of packages cannot be delivered on the first attempt, and in some residential areas up to 50% of deliveries fail. This trial in the Mechelen area is the first project in which multiple carriers cooperate to improve home delivery rates. The smartbox is the result of 18 months of research and development and has is covered by multiple patents.

 

Luc van Bosstraeten, parcelhome.com’s GM for Benelux explains. “It is as simple to use as your letterbox, but it contains breakthrough technology. You can use the system to allow package carriers and even local shops – like your baker – to deliver their products at home. The only thing the baker needs is the Parcelhome app. The system is totally secure and works with dynamic codes comparable to the codes used in online banking. The built-in scale issues a receipt, and the system can receive multiple packages from different carriers. As soon as a package is placed in the ParcelHome unit, the addressee is notified.”

This means that customers know exactly when a package has arrived or been picked up and what each carrier has done. Thanks to the scale, it is easy to send and return packages and there is no need to go to the post office. The ParcelHome unit calculates the delivery fee and franks the package, a carrier then comes and picks it up.

The ParcelHome unit is large enough for 95% of packages. At the moment the trial is limited to the homes of 100 online shoppers in the Mechelen area who will be testing the units from May until July. 
“It is high time for something like this,” says trial participant Gilles Van der Planken from Duffel. “My wife and I both work away from home. We order items online several times a month, from coffee capsules to nose spray to children’s toys. Having to drive somewhere to pick up a parcel is annoying. I hope that from now on ‘home delivery’ will mean that items are actually delivered to our home.”
It is not surprising that parcelhome.com kicks off in Belgium, because e-commerce has huge momentum in the country, and according to research by management consultancy AT Kearny Belgium is among the top ten growth markets. A number Belgian companies have contributed to the development of the smartbox including Quad Industries, Eurocircuits and Clear Channel Belgium. Eurocircuits also takes part in the trial.

But what really makes this project unique is the fact that several different carriers are co-operating for greater customer satisfaction. They clearly see that parcelhome.com is key to the future of e-commerce.

picture-1, picture-2, picture-3 Photo credit: parcelhome.com

Posted by   Dirk stans  on 06 May 2015  | Posted under   eC-services Hits: 3833
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We have introduced our NAKED proto PCB service to help design engineers who have told us that they need to modify their proof-of-concept PCBs “on the bench” by cutting tracks and soldering on wire-links. Soldermasks and silkscreens make this more difficult, so our NAKED proto service delivers 2-layer boards without mask or legend. Of course, if you need fully finished 2- and 4-layer prototypes, then continue to use our well-established PCB proto service.

NAKED proto brings other benefits:

  • Almost 50% lower costs:
    NAKED PCBs are priced around 50% lower than fully-finished PCBs.  As well as dropping masks and legends, the NAKED proto service restricts boards to 2 layers   and the quantities available to 1, 2 or 5 pieces.  This allows us to leverage the maximum benefit from order-pooling.  Also, NAKED PCBs have to start from “known good” data.  Before you place a NAKED proto order, you must run your data-set through PCB Visualizer.  If PCB Visualizer raises any issues, fix them and upload the data again.  As soon as PCB Visualizer confirms that the data is good, place your order.

  • 1 day delivery:
    By starting from known-good data and dropping the mask and legend printing and curing cycles, we can offer 1 day deliveries.  Upload your data and place your order before midnight CET and we will ship the next working day by overnight courier.  So if you order on Monday, we will ship on Tuesday and you will receive the boards on Wednesday in all parts of Europe where couriers provide a next working day service.  Otherwise order on 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 day deliveries.

The introduction of NAKED proto is part of our mission to provide professional PCB designers with the tools they need to develop their designs and bring them to market on time and on budget.  But, as a responsible European company, we also have a duty to encourage and develop new generations of PCB engineers..  We already sponsor student projects all over Europe (see our blogs).  We see NAKED proto as another part of this duty.  We can help tomorrow’s engineers, whether students or hobbyists, by providing affordable prototype PCBs for their personal projects.  Lower cost cannot mean lower quality: they need to debug their designs, not their fabricator’s PCBs.  NAKED proto gives students and hobbyists access to low-cost PCBs of proven quality on reliable deliveries from a leading European supplier, who can also support them with technical back-up from white-papers and blogs to online chat with PCB engineers.

Posted by   Dirk stans  on 06 May 2015  | Posted under   eC-services Hits: 1904
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What is SEMI-FLEX?

SEMI-FLEX is a flex-rigid PCB, typically 4 layers, made entirely of FR4. Unlike conventional flex-rigid PCBs, the flexing element is not polyimide but a thin FR4 core with two layers of copper specially treated to flex without cracking. A less robust solution uses a depth-milled layer rather than a core.

Why use SEMI-FLEX?

SEMI-FLEX is flex-to-install. Unlike polyimide, the FR4 core is not capable of continuous flexing. However it will bend a limited number of times (typically 5 – see the technical specification below) at a controlled radius and to any angle. This makes it an ideal solution where you need to mount two PCBs in a unit at an angle to each other. Instead of using connectors and cables or a composite flex-rigid PCB, you can design a single FR4 SEMI-FLEX PCB which can be safely bent a sufficient number of times to allow installation and subsequent maintenance as needed.

The benefits of using SEMI-FLEX are:

Cost:

  • No need for connectors or cables
  • Less time needed for assembly
  • SEMI-FLEX is entirely FR4, so no need for boards made with expensive polyimide

Time:

  • Faster design time
  • Faster procurement
  • Faster build

Product reliability:

  • Fewer solder-joints


Eurocircuits SEMI-FLEX pool

Eurocircuits’ 4-layer SEMI-FLEX PCBs use a 100 micron central core for the flex area, with 35 micron high-ductility copper foil on each side. The stack is then made up on each side with a 510 micron FR4 core and two layers of no-flow pre-preg (see the full technical specification below). An alternative technology is to build a 2- or 4-layer PCB and then depth-mill the material away to leave a thin section as the flex area. We have adopted the core solution even though it needs more operations and so is a little more expensive. It gives a symmetrical build and so a more stable board, while depth-milling is difficult to control meaning that the flex area may have an irregular thickness. With a core-build we through-mill (rout) the pre-preg before pressing. We can then rout the outer layers with any minor variation in cutter depth being absorbed by the void.

The core build makes it easier to design a main board with up and down sections or a final Z-configuration.

SEMI-FLEX boards are preferably supplied in a panel to avoid any damage during transport or assembly.

Click here to get prices.


SEMI-FLEX technical specification

 

SEMI-FLEX area

 

Minimum bend radius

5 mm

Maximum bend angle

180°

Maximum number of bends

5

SEMI-FLEX length calculator

(2 x pi x bend radius) x (bend angle/360)

For example, bending 5 times over an angle of 180 degree with a radius of 5mm requires a minimum length of the semi-flex part of 15,7mm

 

Copper thickness on semi-flex core

35µm high ductility copper

Highest pattern class

6 - 150µm track/gap (to accommodate the bending)

Drill holes

Not allowed

 

Slots and cut-outs

Not allowed

Corners in semi-flex area profile


Minimum radius 1.00 mm

 

Corner where a narrow semi-flex area joins rigid area

Minimum radius 1.00 mm

Recommended

Use copper in both sides

Recommended

Use copper pour around tracks where possible

RIGID area

 

Material (rigid and semi-flex cores)

Isola PR370HR

Number of copper layers

4

Board thickness

1.6 mm (see build map)

Semi-flex core thickness

100μm

Outer layer start copper foil

18 µm

Highest pattern class

7 - 125µm track/gap

Surface finish

Che Ni/Au selective (ENIG)

Soldermask

Green

Legend

As STANDARD pool

Profile

Break-routing or scoring

Slots and cut-outs (milling)

As STANDARD pool – in rigid area only

Advanced technologies allowed

Peel-off mask, PTH on board edge, round edge plating, copper up to board edge. Plus carbon pads and edge connector gold as non-pooling options.

Advanced technologies not allowed

Blind & Buried vias

UL marking

Not yet available

Delivery format

Preferably delivered in a panel for safe handling

Eurocircuits maakt de E&A-gadget print en lanceert hiermee: SEMI-FLEX pool.

Sinds vele jaren zijn wij trouwe sponsor voor de printen van het gadget dat onze jaarlijkse elektronica-beurs in het Nederlandstalige gebied kleur moet geven. Nog snel een gadget, e-brace, reserveren? Doe het hier!

Deze beurseditie, E&A 2015, is voor ons bijzonder want de print van het gadget is dermate speciaal dat het voor Eurocircuits de start is van een nieuwe pooling service: SEMI-FLEX pool.

De print is een Rigid-Flex waarbij het flex gedeelte geen traditioneel polymide is maar standaard FR-4 met een speciaal bewerkte koperlaag. Dat definiëert de Flex als SEMI-FLEX. Het aantal buigingen en de radius zijn daardoor beperkt (typisch: 5 buigingen van 180° over een radius van 5mm) maar de functionaliteit biedt wel een geweldig alternatief indien men twee printen moet verbinden, aldanniet onder een hoek gemonteerd, en men wil connectoren vermijden. Dat kan verschillende redenen hebben: signaalintegriditeit, plaatsbeperking, kosten, enz...

Hoe ziet de buildup eruit?

In het midden zit een core FR-4 Isola PR370HR 100micron 35/35micron Cu. Dit is het SEMI-FLEX gedeelte met het speciaal behandeld koper waardoor dit zachter blijft, buigt en niet scheurt. Vanwege de mechanische eigenschappen kiezen we voor 35micron Cu wat de patroonklasse beperkt tot klasse 6.

Aan de buitenzijde zitten twee FR-4 cores 360micron dik en 18micron basis koper. Hiervan etsen we een laag weg, zodat we in het totaal over 4 lagen beschikken. (Voor de e-brace kozen we cores van 360micron dik. Voor de SEMI-FLEX pool service zullen deze cores 510micron dik zijn.)

Tussen de cores zitten 2 noflow prepreg lagen van 63micron dikte. Nog voor het persen, frezen we in deze prepregs het latere SEMI-FLEX gedeelte vrij. Noflow betekent dat deze prepregs minimaal uitvloeien tijdens het persen.

Na het persen frezen we diepte gecontroleerd door de buitenste cores waardoor het SEMI-FLEX gedeelte vrij komt te liggen.

Veel meer operaties noodzakelijk dan voor het maken van een 4-laags. Eigenlijk maken we hier een 6-laags reverse buildup waarvan we op voorhand laag 2 en 5 wegetsen. Het verwijderen van laag 2 en 5 maakt de registratie van de ander 4 lagen op elkaar voor het persen iets eenvoudiger.

D&D bestukt de e-brace protos, A1 de pre-serie en op de live line tijdens de beurs, bestukken de gadget partners de resterende hoeveelheid, telkens in een klantpaneel van 3 printen. Het paneeltje ziet er dan schematisch zo uit:

We staan met de e-brace aan de vooravond van een nieuwe service voor Eurocircuits. Wij hopen dat er onder onze klanten voldoende enthousiasme zal zijn om met deze nieuwe pooling mogelijkheden aan de slag te gaan.

Tot op E&A!

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Eurocircuits involved in a project that is out of this world: WUSAT.

Eurocircuits had the immense pleasure to provide the PCB’s for such a prestigious project as the recently launched WUSAT-2, and are very pleased to be sponsoring Warwick's next planned satellite, WUSAT-3‎.

For the last year, eight engineering students from Warwick University, led by their project director Dr Bill Crofts, embarked on a project to design, build and launch their own Satellite into space.

The satellite will measure light frequencies from the outer atmosphere and transmit them back to the team before dropping back to earth. They have designed their machine to estimate the density of elements such as sodium and O2 via their light emission because that is one way satellites can detect other potentially life-supporting planets in a galaxy.

The project is being backed by the European Space Agency, and the German and Swedish Space Agencies are both on board as well.

After months of hard work and dedication the team were ready for launch last Tuesday the 17th March 2015 ‎from the Swedish Space Centre north of the Arctic Circle.

In the words of the project director: “The launch was almost on time, perfect weather conditions, we got some great pics and video of it, the nosecone deployed exactly on time, the satellite ejected, the communications system powered up, and we started to receive data signals through our ground station where most of us were situated on Radar Hill 2km away.

The team were ecstatic and very emotional! Every aspect that each of them had worked on was successful. Later, we heard two sonic bangs which we think was the satellite breaking the sound barrier on re-entry.

Even the ESA guys were excited! Apparently, this is the first time they have successfully achieved transmitted data from an ESA/Rexus ejected unit on re-entry, so an amazing achievement. We have a lot of data now to be analyzed, and we are hoping to estimate the speed of the satellite via the Doppler shift of the radio signals. Nevertheless, to achieve transmission at all in these conditions was quite exceptional! As expected the satellite could not be recovered, but the ejection unit was recovered by helicopter along with the rocket’s service module 40km away.

Project Director Dr. Bill Crofts was keen to point out the vital role played by all of the sponsoring companies in helping the WUSAT team overcome the huge engineering challenges they faced with the WUSAT-2 mission. "They are a key part of the team, and also help to enhance the experience and knowledge that the students acquire through working with them". We are now aiming for WUSAT-3 to be a fully orbiting satellite potentially launched from the International Space Station. How cool is that!”

Eurocircuits wishes the team great and continued success.

One small step for Man and one giant voyage for Eurocircuits.

You can follow them on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/WarwickUniversitySatellite and twitter https://twitter.com/WUSAT_Team