Artwork develops new rasterizer for industrial inkjet applications

For Immediate Release

July 1, 2007

Santa Cruz, CA   -     Artwork Conversion has developed a new program for creating raster data from Gerber photoplotter data which is designed specifically for industrial inkjet applications.


For many years PCB manufacturers have desired to simplify the multi-step photoresist-mask-etch process used to metalize PCB's by directly applying photoresist or conductive inks to the substrate using the same inkjet approach commonly used to put ink to paper. Various difficulties and bottlenecks have limited these efforts to the laboratory.

In the past two years key bottlenecks have been overcome by improvements to the inkjet heads and optimized ink formulations.

Fine Line Problem

Over the same time period, the target line widths and gaps for the printed circuits have continued to shrink to the point where the line widths are not much larger than the diameter of a single ink droplet. It is necessary to precisely place each droplet in order to produce a smooth edged trace.

Precisely placing the droplets requires a very fine data grid - the grid is typically 10 times finer than a droplet diameter. This fine grid changes the basic approach to converting vector data (Gerber photoplotter) to bitmap. One cannot simply fill all the grid points that fall inside of the vector boundary as this would place so much ink within the region causing it to flow and smear. It is absolutely required to control the spacing between droplets so as not to exceed the a maximum ink density in any small region.

The New Approach

Artwork's new Edge Rasterizer works by first converting the Gerber photoplot commands into closed contours. It then analyzes the edge of each contour and precisely places droplets along the edge in a way that follows the edge smoothly but that does not exceed the droplet density.

Finally it fills the interior of each region with droplets - again not exceeding the maximum specified density.

The Edge Rasterizer, combined with a suitable inkjet head and stage, should enable board manufacturers to print circuits with lines and gaps of 70 um and obtain industry standard line width tolerances.

How It's Done

Artwork uses our IC lithography technology to convert the Gerber data to contours. No matter how many flashes and strokes are used in the Gerber file to expose a region, our tool first converts any touching or overlapping vectors into a contour. We then create a edge path for the droplets by offsetting the outer boundary to account for the droplet diameter. We carefully place and space the droplets along the inner edge of the boundary. Finally a second routine fills the interior of each boundary.

The user has fine grain control of this process and inputs the grid spacing, droplet diameter, droplet density and an extra "compensation" parameter.

Price and Availability

The Edge Rasterizer runs on Windows and is available now. Low quantity pricing is $3500 per license and rasterizer can be customized per the OEM's requirements.

For more information contact:

    Steve DiBartolomeo
    Applications Manager
    Artwork Conversion Software, Inc.
    Steve DiBartolomeo

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