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PWB Fabricator Buyer's Guide
In order to assist our customer in their evaluations of bare PCB suppliers, we created a tool for buyers to evaluate PCB fabricators on a line item by line item basis.

Download the PCB Fabricator Buyer’s Guide (.pdf)

  Process Description Industry Standard Saturn Electronics Corporation
1 COPPER LAMINATE (base material) Standard sheet sizes that are sheared to size in-house. Standard panel sizes with saw-cut edges.

This significantly reduces contamination in subsequent processes (e.g., imaging, testing, etc.)
2 DRILLING Drilling machine that requires tools to be changed manually.

Maximum panel sizes are typically 18” x 24”.

No control in Z-axis, +/- 0.002” hole position accuracy
Saturn’s lowest-end PCB drilling machines are Excellon Mark VI CNC drillers. All of these machines are equipped with automatic measurement systems that measure drill bit length, diameter, spindle runout, and broken drill bit detection.

Essentially, these capabilities remove the human element from these drilling issues, thereby minimizing the chance of operator error.

Saturn also has three Mania Micronics 86 drilling machines. These machines incorporate the industry’s latest linear motion technology and 180k RPM high speed spindles. The use of linear motion increases hole position accuracy from an industry standard of +/- 0.002” down to +/- 0.0005”, including in the Z-axis, which makes these ideal for controlled depth blind via drilling.

3 IMAGE ROOM Enclosed room. Saturn has a Class 10,000 Clean Room.

The environment in this room minimizes foreign material from creating common shorts in the imaging process. Also, strict temperature and humidity controls prevent distortion in the customer artwork.
4 IMAGING / EXPOSURE Customer artwork is aligned manually by eyeballing the registration of the film to the drilled panel.

Light source is a single point light source, making it not possible to use on fine line images run on production panel sizes.
Standard: Saturn uses MultiLine equipped drawers for imaging. MultiLine tooling removes the human factor involved in lining up the bottom film to the top film. This results in significantly reduced off-registration issues.

Advanced (inner layers): Saturn also employs the use of an Olec AX-28 automatic exposure unit that uses two cameras to align the top and bottom artwork. This machine can hold registration as tight as +/- .0005 mils front to back for inner layers.

Industry-Leading (inner and outer layers): Saturn has purchased and installed two Olec AT-30 automatic alignment exposure units. These units use four cameras to align artwork top to bottom, and then use panel motion systems to automatically adjust the panel position to a best fit to the artwork. Furthermore, these units have hybrid-collimated light units that ensure exposure light attacks the panel at 90 degree angles to the artwork, which is critical for fine line resolutions.
5 PLATING THROUGH HOLES (PTH) Manual dip tanks. Saturn employs two automatic electroplating lines and, as such, PTH is a two-step process. Saturn has built a custom automatic plating line that has been designed and constructed primarily in-house. The intent was to minimize plating variation, which is the main goal of production plating. This was accomplished by including the following:

1. It houses racks that only allow panels to be plated one-high.

2. Anode-to-anode distance is 28 inches (maximum allowable distance for plating).

3. Water-submerged positive cathode contact.

4. Chemical-submerged anode bars for positive contact.

5. Eductor system. This utilizes a highvolume chemical flow parallel to the panels instead of air to accomplish chemical agitation.

6. Mechanical agitation to allow chemical to flow through holes.

7. Vibration to remove air from microvias and blind microvias. 8. Dual-sided rectification to equalize copper plating from one side of the rack to the other.

9.State-of-the-art rectifiers (two per rack) with 0.5% maximum ripple effect.

10. Panels are now being plated at 15 amps per square feet (ASF), versus an industry standard of 45 ASF. This will result in more uniform plating, albeit lowered production.

11. High ductile plating process that meets C7000 specs for 1,000 hour cycle tests.

12. Chemistry has been revised so that high-aspect ratio plating can be performed. Both lines are calibrated to plate 10:1 aspect ratio as a standard.
6 STRIP-ETCH-STRIP (SES) Conveyorized line that is capable of producing 7 mil line / spacing. In 2008, Saturn installed a new Hollmuller SES line. This line incorporates the latest in spray technology that minimizes chemical puddling. This is line-capable to accurately and uniformly etch down to 2 mil lines and spaces.
7 CLEANING PRIOR TO LPI Manual dip tanks or small conveyorized chemical cleaning line. Instead of using a chemical cleaning process that may increase ionic contamination and compromise the surface finish, Saturn utilizes an Aluminum Oxide Jet Scrubber. This process uses an aluminum oxide slurry that is sprayed on the panels to remove copper oxidation.
8 LIQUID PHOTO-IMAGEABLE (LPI) SOLDERMASK Manual tables or AutoRoll machines. Saturn uses 2 DP- model LPI applicators to be used in lieu of AutoRoll soldermask applicators. For standard colors, Saturn also employs the use of two Argus spray coating lines. This will result in less soldermask within holes and eliminates dimple marks on the board surface. Furthermore, they will result in a much more uniform soldermask thickness across the product surface area.
9 LPI IMAGE Customer artwork is aligned manually by eyeballing the registration of the film to the drilled panel. Standard: Saturn uses MultiLine equipped drawers for imaging. MultiLine tooling removes the human factor involved in lining up the bottom film to the top film. This results in significantly reduced off-registration issues.

Industry-Leading (inner and outer layers): Saturn has purchased and installed two Olec AT-30 automatic alignment exposure units. These units use four cameras to align artwork top to bottom, and then use panel motion systems to automatically adjust the panel position to a best fit to the artwork. Furthermore, these units have hybrid-collimated light units that ensure exposure light attacks the panel at 90 degree angles to the artwork, which is critical for fine line resolutions.
10 LPI DEVELOPING Standard conveyor that is separated from baking and cleaning lines. Saturn has conveyorizing the developing, final baking, and cleaning processes into a single production line. This should improve quality through reduced handling and utilizing higher-end machinery.

Our developing line is constructed of a single-chamber, stainless steel developing line.
11 FINAL BAKING Manual convection box ovens. Saturn has installed a Bassi Tunnel oven to perform final baking. Since heat is uniformly applied to the boards and the machine controls the cycle time, quality is improved dramatically.
12 CLEANING Manual dip tanks. Saturn has a Chemcut XL547 conveyorized cleaning line. XL547 model is the latest Chemcut equipment line.
13 HOT AIR SOLDER LEVELING (HASL) Vertical SnPb HASL.

Pb-Free HASL typically outsourced.
Saturn has installed three Lantronics TT-30 vertical hot air levelers. These machines were designed with the intent of using this finish on finer pitch devices than in the past. They hold the panels at 45° angles so that SMT pads are not at 90° or 180° angles to the air knives.

Saturn uses two of these units for SnPb HASL, and the third for Nihon Superior’s SN100CL lead-free solder finish process.
14 HASL POST-CLEANER LPI Cleaning line is also used as a post-cleaner. Saturn has custom fabricated a high-pressure, high-temperature post-cleaner for use after the HASL process.

This is a stainless steel post-cleaner unit that runs at 150°F, sprays regular and D.I. water at 1 to 1.5 gallons per minute at 50 psi using 7.5 HP pumps (1/2 gallon per minute, 20-30 p.s.i., 1.5 HP is the best available on the market). Furthermore, the cleaner uses 8-1” wide toothbrush-type agitating brushes versus an industry best of 4-0.5” brushes. This custom process has been proven to remove ionic contamination from the surface of PCBs to well below industry standards.
15 INSPECTION Visual inspection by personnel using a light table. Saturn augments its visual inspection process by utilizing visual inspection equipment. This equipment (hole checker) checks for holes that have been plugged by the HASL and LPI processes, incorrectly plated or non-plated holes, and drilled with incorrect drill bit sizes.
16 ELECTRICAL TESTING Either clam shell tester or single flying probe. Saturn offers a variety of testing alternatives. First, Saturn has 5 Mania double-sided, double-density grid testing machines. The fixture cost for these testers is half the cost or less than those used in more traditional clam shell testers since we build everything in-house.

Also, Saturn utilizes six flying probe testers for smaller and prototype orders. This allows the customer to forego the cost of a hard testing fixture and, instead, pay a modest testing fee.
17 CLEANING AFTER ROUTING Washer using city water. Saturn has installed a washer in its shipping department that uses de-ionized (D.I.) water to clean the boards. D.I. water results in a cleaner board, but more importantly it further removes ionic contamination that may have occurred after HASL.
18 DUPLICATE PROCESSES Due to cost constraints, many PCB shops will not have duplicate processes. All of Saturn’s processes incorporate duplicate equipment so that in the case of an equipment failure, Saturn’s production capabilities will not be compromised.

Furthermore, Saturn has controlling interests in three other domestic PCB fabrication facilities so that in the event of a catastrophic event, the supply chain will not be compromised.
19 ADVANCED CAPABILITIES Minimal / Outsourced Saturn has grown from a technology standpoint exponentially since 2003. In-house capabilities include laser drilling, laser routing, PTFE plasma preparation, Plasma treatment and etchback. Additionally, Saturn features special project groups to assist customers with critical and technologically demanding products.
20 MINIMUM HOLE SIZE

.015” .002”
21 MINIMUM LINE / SPACING .007” / .007” .003” / .003”
22 SURFACE FINISHES HASL HASL; Lead-Free HASL; Immersion Silver, Immersion Gold
23 QUALITY CERTIFICATIONS No certification is viewed as standard. ISO 9000, TS16949, Delphi C7000, ISO14000, AS9100, ITAR Registration
24 FINANCIAL LIABILITIES No standards available. $ 0 Bank Debt
$ 0 Accounts Payable
$ 0 Lease obligations