Coding and marking of electronic components
The electronics industry is experiencing vigorous growth in micro-electronic components. With the development of these smaller components comes the need for micro-sized, highly durable codes. These identifiers are used for product serialization, supporting anti-piracy and counterfeiting initiatives in the electronics market.
Electronic components frequently require codes that fit in small, constrained spaces. Aside from size limitations, coding equipment for electronic components must provide clean, complex and high resolution codes that are durable for production processes, including alcohol cleaning. Coders must also have the ability to produce readable DataMatrix codes or unique identifiers for traceability and tracking purposes. Manufacturers must also be mindful of regulatory requirements and be prepared to meet customer-specific needs such as using inks that are halogen-free.
Based on print size, resolution requirements, and code content, two technology options that are well-suited for electronic products marking are continuous inkjet (CIJ) and laser. Linx CIJ printers are engineered to provide high resolution, durable codes on a variety of materials, even at micro sizes often required for electronic components and products. HSA Systems high-resolution (TIJ Printers, HP Technology) models are specifically designed to print more content in less space. These printing solutions also offer advanced functionality for increased productivity and uptime, along with ink formulations to meet customerspecific needs. Macsa laser marking systems deliver indelible marks on a variety of substrates at high production line speeds. These products offer a number of advantages including high quality marks, permanence and fewer consumables. The Macsa line of laser solutions includes CO2, YAG, UV and Fiber laser sources in different power outputs that address a wide range of marking and application requirements.
Many electronic components look exactly the same. In many cases, the outer look is the same, and only the internal circuitry changes. Coding allows differentiation between components and manufacturers.
Most electronic components are sold in bulk directly to manufacturers. Only a small fraction is sold with individual packaging. In many cases, coding is the only opportunity the electronic component manufacturer has to identify its product and to represent its brand to its users.
Aside from providing track and trace visibility of product throughout the distribution chain, codes can also be an integral means of fighting counterfeit products. A common challenge for manufacturers is the illegal copying and sale of electronic components that look like very similar to the original device. Products manufactured with counterfeit components can introduce serious risk to the reliability and warranty of the device. Moreover, such components can even get the product manufacturer in trouble with regulators, as the counterfeit component has not been certified for use in the final product. With smart coding technology, manufacturers can add unique product identifiers which help to make counterfeiting more difficult.
Coding and marking technology can provide a whole new level of visibility and tracking to the distribution channel. Utilizing smart coding solutions can help manufacturers build a stronger foundation in support of existing distribution tracking initiatives and anti-diversion efforts. They can also help provide increased visibility towards protecting product brands and profitability. Smart coding techniques include enhancing basic lot/batch codes by altering and verifying specific characters in your codes. Algorithmic software technology helps manufacturers make their codes more difficult for unauthorized parties to replicate. It is also possible to generate unique single item product codes for individual products on the line.
With computer circuitry being incorporated in everyday devices like light bulbs, watches, shoes, etc., the space required to print long, complex codes is shrinking. This is especially true in the electronics industry where DataMatrix codes are so widely used to track products throughout the distribution chain.
A key step in electronic components manufacturing is the cleaning of the PCB and/ or product with organic solvents to remove, among other things, solder residue. Codes need to be able to survive this cleaning process, while not affecting the electronic component.
To stay competitive and be compliant in the global marketplace, electronic component manufacturers must meet current and evolving legislation requirements. ROhS legislation, for example, started in the EU, but has influenced the establishment of similar regulations around the globe. These regulations ban the use of certain hazardous substances like lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and polybrominated flame retardants in products.