Watch the Interview here: https://youtu.be/cRFASqja0A0
PulseForge is a new startup in the area of phonic soldering. A technology that offers many potential benefits for greater.
reliability and sustainability in the soldering process. Trevor Galbraith interviewed Stan Farnsworth from PulseForge at IPC APEX Expo.
Welcome Stan and thank you for coming in today.
Stan Farnsworth: Of course. Good morning. This is our debut here at IPC Apex following our exciting launch at CES just a couple of weeks ago.
So, to explain to our viewers, Pulse Forge is a breakaway division from Novacentrix. Why did you split the company?
Stan Farnsworth: Sure. So, Novacentrix is our origination point. Novacentrix has been in operation all together now for over 20 years. We started as a nano materials company, evolved into printed and flexible electronics. And, over the course of that evolution, we developed a couple of really important business units, one related to materials through primarily electrically conductive inks and also some continued sales and development of nano powders and formulations. But, the second one that really developed as we got more into the challenges of print and flexible electronics is related to processing those materials.
And, the challenge has always been processing materials at higher temperatures than what their substrates could accommodate. And, that seems like a challenge for sure, but we figured out how to do that with our Pulse Forge tools. And over the course of time, the Pulse Forge product line has evolved. We finally realized just during the pandemic that we wanted to separate that into an independent entity to really let that blossom and flourish. And, so here we are now with
Novacentrix continuing on, but here now we also have PulseForge Corporation.
Right. So, tell us a little bit how the technology works because you mentioned there that it reflows solder and other materials at a much higher temperature. Normally that would send warning bells off in people’s minds. But in actual fact, it’s a very safe system for the components around it. Maybe you could explain that?
Stan Farnsworth: Of course, thanks. We are playing tricks with heat trans-fer. So, using physics in our favor. It turns out that if we can apply energy quickly enough, and by quickly enough, I mean, seconds or even milliseconds, then we can achieve the target temperatures, in this case,
the solder and achieve liquidous and get good reflow properties. But, turn off the power again before enough total energy has been applied to heat the substrate and the components.
So, we’re heating only the solder in seconds or less and not heating the entire body of the substrate and all of the other components.
And, in doing that, it lets us do a couple of things and lets our customers who are using the tools, do a couple of things. It lets them process the solders very quickly, much faster than traditional technologies allow. It lets them process large areas altogether. So, we get much more scalability and through-put. And, when you process large areas, you get fun effects like self-aligning components because the surface tensions on the solder allow them to realign themselves on the pads, which is really exciting to watch. But, really importantly also, it lets us and our customers use only 15% of the energy that a normal reflow oven would use. And, so it’s a great way to decarbonize the supply chain and save some energy costs while we’re at it.
That’s incredible because sustainability is such a big deal nowadays. A lot of countries are mandating that you have to reduce your energy levels. So, this would be certainly one way of being able to reduce energy level in the factory considerably?
Stan Farnsworth: Yeah, absolutely and a quick tool installation. That’s a very quick way to drop energy consumption because of the technology there’s no need to turn it on hours early to reach thermal equilibration in 10 or 12 zones. The way we’re delivering the energy through a light energy, it just turns on and then it turns off. It’s really that quick.
What temperature does it get up to?
Stan Farnsworth: So, we can really readily achieve the liquidous temperature of SAC 305, the lead free solders, no problem at all around 200 to 300 degrees.
In other applications, outside of soldering, the tools configured for these other applications can do really crazy things like even melts glass frit in fractions of a second. So, 1000C plus.
Wow. That really is quite a very flexible range then of different applications. So, I was lucky enough to be with you up at CES to have a look at some of the things that were going on there. And, I spoke to Rudy Ghosh about one of the applications we were talking about, which was really how to reflow onto materials and wearables. This is what Rudy told us.
Rudy, one of the areas that seems to have attracted a lot of attention this week is on the wearable side. So, how do you photonically solder onto wearable materials which are stretchable?
Dr. Rudy Ghosh: So, that’s again a great question and this has come up multiple times with a lot of the customers that we have talked to. The samples that we are showing here are very thin PET. It’s very, very flexible, but it’s not stretchable. So, for a lot of the things that we would work on, on the fabric side, on the wearable side, let’s say would need to stretch a lot more. The substitute would be something like TPU, thermoplastic polyure-thane. Instead there is definitely a down the line possibility of having etched copper on TPU. That’s not what we have right now, but what we do on the Novacentrix side of our business, we have conductive inks.
And, by controlling the properties of those conductive inks, you can really make them stretchable. Now, these stretchable inks can then be cured using the PulseForge technology. You can put down SAC 305 and do the solder reflow using our PulseForge technology.
So, it’s clear there Stan, that what’s happening is that they’re using the combination of the PulseForge tool and in this case for the wearables working on the Novacentrix inks that allow that to happen.
Stan Farnsworth: And, that’s a really key point. Certainly the tools are dependent on having materials to process.
The good news is that almost any material can be fine. So, Novacentrix has very excellent inks and of course we’ll advocate for Novacentrix inks, but we’re finding that there is a lot of adaptability in the tools as well for different types of solder for many of the manufacturers. So, we’ve been part-nering and doing tests with leading manufacturers, solder providers here in this room today. We’ve done some publi-cations with Indium and a couple of other folks as well, for example, using their off the shelf solder so it doesn’t require a special material to be able to use this new technology.
Okay. So, when I was at CES, I also asked Rudy about some of the other applications that opened up for this technology. And, this is what he said.
Rudy, just finishing off on the low temp solder side, is this a real alternative because some of the options we are looking at right now are tin bismuth alloys or potentially ECAs, which of course they use silver flakes, which is expensive.