Arkansas Patent of the Month – November 2021

Solder resist is an insulating ink that covers the surface of printed wiring boards and protects the circuit pattern. One of the main roles of solder resist is to prevent solder from adhering to unnecessary parts when components are mounted on the board. Solder resist is the standard in printed circuit board (PCB) industry and is commonly made of a polymer patterned with photolithography on a laminated film and solidified with a thermal cure. When adding a solder mask, the entire process is lengthened and adds cost, tooling, and complexity. In addition to this limitation, most solder resist materials cannot withstand extremely high temperature processes without burning, discoloring, flaking, and contaminating other components.

Cree Fayetteville Inc. – a subsidiary of Wolfspeed, Inc. – has designed an alternative to the traditional solder resist to ease the electronic module assembly process. Their process uses laser ablation of the solderable surfaces. The laser forms trenches which help to contain the solder to a desirable, usable area. The trenches are then filled in by scribing lines with the focused laser light. The trenches best balance solder spreading, to create an overall higher quality bond and limit contamination of other functional surfaces, allowing for the end-product PCB to function more optimally. In this way, the process successfully allows for high temperature, vacuum-safe solder resist all thanks to the laser ablation of solderable surfaces.

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