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eSurface Manufacturing

What is eSurface?

The simple answer is that eSurface is a proprietary technology for creating circuits on a circuit board, with a much finer line & space geometry, than anything currently in existence within our industry today.

More specifically, it is a proprietary coating that chemically activates the surface of almost any material (FR4, Rogers, Polyimide, Duriod, Teflon, Flex/Pyralux and more) and allows the copper circuit to form a much improved bond between the base laminate and the copper circuit. It also creates a circuit pattern with much improved line definition (or resolution / tolerance), circuit shape and process consistency, than the current chemical etching technology.

Where is the industry at today?

The threshold of industry tolerance today is about .003 trace / .003 space (~75 microns). Most premier circuit board shops can do .003, with only limited damage to yields. However, when the board requires .002 traces and spaces, conventional processing yields fall to 50-60% and the board shops charge a substantial premium over conventional boards. If the board requires circuit patterns at .001, then yields fall to 10% or less and the price jumps accordingly.

Geometry Benefits: How small can you produce circuits with eSurface?

With the eSurface process we can now process circuits down to .002 (50 microns) and even .001 (25 microns) and maintain high-yields. There is also no physical limitation at .001 circuits with the eSurface technology and we believe that we can advance the technology fairly rapidly to the sub 1 mil threshold within a very short period of time.

Tolerance Benefits: How tightly can you control the trace & space definition?

eSurface has a huge advantages in being able to produce circuits with tight tolerances. This is ideal for RF, Microwave, Hi-Speed and/or tight impedance controlled applications. Although IPC allows trace tolerances of +/- 20%, this range is entirely inadequate for most of these applications. This tolerance derives from the wide process window required for standard chemical etching. With eSurface, where we plate up the circuit, we have been able to control line definition down to ¼ mil tolerances. Since our entire circuit pattern definition is using a more stable and more controlled process, we can produce the more finely defined circuits.

Impedance Benefits: How tightly can you control impedances?

See above for Tolerance Benefits. In essence, by being able to control the traces better, we can also better control the impedance accuracy. Current industry standard is +/- 10% of the desired impedance value. With eSurface we can now dramatically improve this tolerance.

Bond Strength Benefits: Does eSurface produce a better bond between the copper and the bare laminate?

eSurface has a distinct advantage in being able to produce a better bond (or “peel strength”) improvement over standard chemical etching. In test cases, the actual laminate was torn off, before the bond from the copper to the laminate. For fine line circuits, the copper is also much more resistant to scratches and abrasions because of this bond improvement. This improvement has also demonstrated clear benefits for hi-temp applications and ruggedization

Thermal Benefits: Does eSurface help with hi-temp or environmental extremes?

See above for Bond Strength Benefits. In essence, by being able to form a better molecular bond between the copper and the laminate, the survivability of the end circuit board is much improved, since in many applications it is that bond that breaks down prior to the actual laminate!

Environmentally Clean or “Green” Benefits: Is eSurface toxic or considered a hazardous chemical?

eSurface is completely water soluble and environmentally friendly. In addition, under the fully additive process option, eSurface will eliminate the needs for many acids and hazardous chemicals currently being used in the industry. Since eSurface is within the circuit pattern process, no part of the eSurface covaler remains on the boards. It is completely washed off in the process.

Cost Benefits: Will eSurface reduce the cost of my boards? If so…, by how much?

eSurface has clear advantages for cost, but this improvement can vary widely depending on your application. Exact percentage savings will vary from design to design. Let’s take several scenario’s:

1. Fine Geometries – if you currently have a need to produce fine line circuits at .003 (75 microns) and less, than your savings can add up depending on where you current design is at. If you are at trace/space parameters of .002 (50 microns) your savings will be substantial because of the increase in yields. If you are .001 (25 microns) then your savings will also be very substantial, but more importantly, you may not be able to get anyone to manufacture your product at any price at the .001 feature size, so the eSurface process may be your ONLY solution.

2. Fine Tolerances – Again, because of the improvement in yields, your savings can be very good. However, depending upon your requirements, the eSurface process might be the only good alternative for achieving fine trace tolerances. It literally can make the difference between achieving your goals and not.

3. Current Design vs eSurface Design – The real cost savings can be realized by designing your circuit board with the eSurface fine geometries or tolerances that are known to be possible from the outset. For example, if you currently have a 20 layer circuit board, with 3-4 different sequential lamination steps, and by using the eSurface design parameters you are able to produce a standard construction 10 layer circuit board, then you could cut the cost of your design in ½ or more.

4. Standard Construction / FR4 / Low Layer counts – for low end applications the savings would be minimal, if any. If you are already producing this type of product offshore and in volume, then this process will NOT help you or more specifically we at Murrietta Circuits cannot help you! You probably are already paying the lowest price possible so you have to feel good about that!

Material Types: What material types does eSurface apply to?

With the right techniques and processing guidelines, eSurface will adhere to almost any surface material. For circuit board laminate we know it will work with:

  • FR4 (all manufacturers, any Tg or Td value – non-Rohs and Rohs compliant materials)
  • Rogers (3000 series, 4000 series, 5000 series, 6000 series, 8000 series and more)
  • Megtron (all series)
  • Poyimide (all manufacturers)
  • Duriod
  • Teflon
  • Ceramics
  • Flex/Pyralux

In summary what are the key Benefits of eSurface

  • Improved line geometries (i.e. trace & space) down to .001 and less.
  • Improved Signal Integrity due to better line definition, shape, resolution and tolerance.
  • Ideally suited for RF and High-Speed applications due to better circuit definition and process consistency from lot-to-lot.
  • Improved bond between the copper and the laminate (i.e. peel strength).
  • The ability to adhere to almost any surface material.
  • The ability to redesign boards with increased circuit density, improved manufacturability, reduced lead time and thus reduced cost, relative to HDI boards today.
  • The ability to perform 3D metallization. In the future circuits will no longer be restricted to a 2 dimensional world of flat surfaces.

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