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23 October 2017

3D Printing Shortens PCB Prototyping Cycle

Among manufacturers, there is a common perception that the more complicated the concept, the longer it takes to produce a market-ready functional object. This is especially relevant for the highly competitive electronics industry, where product complexity is continuously increasing and improved time-to-market is a primary business objective.

It all starts with the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and electronics design and development companies’ need for shorter, more agile and efficient product development cycles. Most of today’s PCB prototypes are produced by traditional subtractive manufacturing methods, often by overseas vendors—most often located in Asia. Producing the PCB is a tedious multistage process, including milling, drilling, film transfer, and plating machines; copper etching baths; and a press. Standard turnaround times are generally two to three weeks, although circuit prototypes can often be produced in less time for a substantial urgency fee.

An even greater challenge is when design complexity rises, as in the creation of professional multilayer prototype boards needed to create ground-breaking new applications and electronic products. A tiny mistake in design, resulting in a poor circuit, could lead to risky product recalls and other quality problems.

To avoid costly mistakes of this kind, there is usually a need for proof-of-concept, design validations, and other interim steps en route to a final full-board prototype. This means that even after the PCB prototype has been produced and tested, problems are often discovered and designs need to be updated, further increasing the lead time and cost for each PCB, making iterative design and testing virtually impossible.

 

MIT Spins Second Wireless Charger Start-up

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has spun off a second wireless recharging start-up. Pi Inc. (San Bruno, Calif.), which made its formal debut this week, is readying a beam-forming magnetic induction wireless recharging station that will charge multiple devices within a range of about a foot from the charger in any direction.

Inside the Pi wireless charger are beam-forming magnetic induction coils that can charge your smartphone or tablet from a distance of about a foot in any direction, provided you buy a special case with a matching set of coils. Pi’s rollout comes roughly a decade after MIT spin-off WiTricity Corp. (Watertown, Mass.) first promised a magnetically coupled resonant wireless recharger that would work over a distance of up to 3 feet. Neither technology has appeared in a product yet, although both spin-offs are promising announcements by Christmas.

There are already more than 700 wireless rechargeable devices and chargers available that adhere to the Wireless Power Consortium’s licensable Qi standard, which works over a distance of about an inch. All of these chargers and wirelessly rechargeable devices — such as Apple’s new iPhone-8 — use a pad on which the user places the device for wireless charging via resonant inductive coupling. There are also 14 Qi-compatiblechargers designed to be built into furniture for a planar profile.

 

www.futurehorizons.com

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