Manufacturing process to cut hardware costs


Manufacturing process to cut hardware costs

Nick Booth

Researchers at Nagaoka University of Technology have invented a circuit board process which will drastically reduce the cost of manufacturing hardware.

The research team said the new method - which revolves around spraying copper onto circuit boards - will eventually cut manufacturing costs of components such as motherboards and graphics cards to a tenth of their current production price.

It will also allow a wider variety of circuit boards to be made, boosting IT applications in a number of different technologies. The research continues but a practical version of the technology is mooted to be ready for 2012.

The breakthrough came from the invention of a method of making nanograins of copper that resist oxidisation. The resulting cheap copper powder can be applied to a circuit board, inkjet style, cutting the time-consuming process of etching circuit boards.

Currently, copper nanograins are made using an energy-intensive process that involves heating copper until it evaporates. In the new procedure, a fine copper wire is jolted with around 6,000 volts for several microseconds, instantly scorching it by several thousand degrees and evaporating the copper. The metal vapour is immediately cooled using a gaseous fusion of nitrogen and oleic acid to produce nanograins of copper. The acid coating protects the copper particles from oxidation.

Controlling factors - such as the pressure of the cooling gas - can be altered to vary the size of the copper nanograins. They can be anything from five to 70 nanometres, depending on the type of circuit board being made.

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