It’s not often we feel that something we’re featuring is a genuinely new and groundbreaking technique, but a team from the University of Maryland’s Small Artifacts Lab may have done just that with their foldable and flexible PCBs created using a fiber laser engraver.
Laser engraving a PCB is nothing new, but they’ve taken a custom PCB material made using Kapton tape and copper foil, and fine-tuned the engraver to not only selectively remove copper, but also to create in-place folds in the Kapton substrate. They have even used the laser to melt solder paste and solder components, though we’re not so convinced about the quality as seen in the video below the break. This means that they can not only create 3-dimensional PCB sculptures but also useful structures such as their example of an all-PCB micro switch. To make things easy they’ve even created a custom CAD package for designing in this medium.
Perhaps best of all, there appears to be nothing here that couldn’t be also performed outside the lab by anyone with enough Kapton and copper, and a fiber laser. We’re looking forward to where this technique will go. If you’re interested, you can read their paper here.