The greatest possible individualitySteinach i.K. – September 2022: A significant proportion of the PCB used in industry are standard and mass-produced. Becker & Müller is deliberately taking a different approach: with a good 20 employees, the company has focused on the development of “special” PCBs: special types, prototypes, samples, special solutions, customer-specific and with the shortest possible delivery times. This also includes very large solutions in the truest sense of the word: Oversized PCB up to 427 x 884 mm.
Impressive to look at and so large that completely automated processes reach their limits: “With PCB in these dimensions, we also add manual production steps,” explains Managing Director Janik Becker, who is now the 3rd generation to run the family business. It is true that the competition also manufactures PCB in such sizes. “But only from very high quantities. We offer our customers this on request even from batch size 1.” As a prototype manufacturer, the company has a decisive advantage over series manufacturers – its unique flexibility.
The technical challenges in the production of oversized printed circuit boards for the family-owned company in Baden lie on several levels. On the one hand, the dimensions exceed the capacities of ordinary processing machines, so that the working area of CNC machines and direct exposure had to be extended. This has implications for the layout of the data in the design-for-manufacturing-process (DFM). “The data is cut in half for each layer,” Becker said. “This segmentation of the panels doubles numerous steps in the process.” In conjunction with the enormous dimensions, this places increased demands on process reliability, as Becker clarifies, “For example, we implemented registration holes and markers to ensure mechanical precision, especially with regard to a seamless transition of the layout in the middle of the panel. The very highest precision is required when inserting the registration holes, as these are used subsequently to structure the layout as well as to position further registration markers for the subsequent processing steps.” This process makes it feasible to maintain position tolerances <20 μm between the drilling and the conductor pattern as well as a line and space of 75 μm. Due to the sheer size of the panels, most of the handling between the process steps as well as the loading of the machines is done manually. “To reduce the probability of errors to a minimum in this process, we have implemented a poka-yoke approach.” On the other hand, ordinary surface treatments are reaching their capacity limits. Here, too, Becker & Müller was able to develop innovative solutions to be able to coat the panels with all standard end surfaces.
For our flex PCB, we have also developed special designs for handling, transport and machining in order to be able to guarantee our usual quality to the full extent here as well.” At this point, the team benefits from the experience and expertise of founder and former managing director Xaver Müller, who has retired from the front line but continues to contribute his many years of development expertise in the field of PCB manufacturing. “Basically, Xaver Müller built up our competencies in this area through a special customer project in the field of flex PCB that required these large dimensions – that was a real innovation driver,” describes Janik Becker. “We are now expanding this know-how further in other specific projects.”
End-to-end inspection and testing processes accompany production and ensure that even such huge PCB have the top quality for which Becker & Müller is known. These include optical inspections, E-Test, and mechanical or optical measurements using a CNC video measuring microscope.
When we talk about oversized customer-specific PCB, we are talking about elaborate and complex production processes,” Becker summarizes. “With our many years of experience, the corresponding manufacturing infrastructure, and our strong team, we are ideally positioned here and can produce both rigid and flexible oversized PCB up to two layers – customized, high quality, and also very fast. After all, this is exactly what Becker & Müller has been known for over the years: the greatest possible individuality.”