Application: What Tool-Less methods to use when excising parts from a panel.
The most common and the most accurate tool-less method for excising a flexible circuit/heater is laser cutting. Laser cutting is done by an optically controlled laser beam that draws out the cutline and internal hole patterns. Sophisticated laser machines have software algorithms that work with the optical alignment systems to maximize accuracy. Flexible circuit substrates will grow and shrink during the fabrication process, often in ways that cannot be 100% predicted. Trying to align a die to this substrate requires a best fit when the dimensions of the substrate features are not the same as the die. However, an optically guided laser system can compensate the entire cutline to match the changed dimensions (within allowed specification). This results in lower scrap by reducing cut out feature to image variations. Laser cutting is usually a slower operation than die cutting which results in a slightly higher price.
The knife is a tool-less option that uses a program created from the Gerber files at the time of setup. The panels include target points to position the knife with the cut line, the blade of the knife follows the preloaded program around the edge of each part which removes the parts from the panel. This is a great option for low volume programs or prototypes as it is a cheap (no tooling needed) and fast way to get parts through the production floor. In many applications we recommend our customers use the knife option through the early prototype stages, until the customer reaches a finalized design, to prevent higher tooling costs and longer lead times for every design change. The knife and laser are also great options for parts that are longer than 24”.
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