Tube-shaped printed circuit board

This 3-D tubular design allows the board to serve as the equipment enclosure or structural design piece thereby freeing space for other purposes and reducing the necessary weight and volume of a system


Regardless of the shape of a printed circuit board (PCB), they are all flat and often stacked on top of each other in an electronic device or mounting rack.

This traditional design has worked well, but as new products are designed with needs for smaller PCB’s in more unusual enclosures, flat and stacked PCB’s no longer provide an adequate design solution.

3-D Tube-Shaped Printed Circuit Board Design

As an example of just one step in the layering process, photosensitive etchant resist (250) is rolled on to conductive layer (210) and rotated. A circuit design layer (255) is wrapped onto the etchant resist. The circuit design layer may be secured with one or more tooling pins to insure proper registration. Once the circuit design layer 255 is in place and registered, the etchant resist is exposed and cured by UV light source.

Miniaturization is also pushing electronics engineers to design components with multiple purposes. Components need to do their primary function and provide added-value such as serving as a structural component to strengthen the device.

To address design needs, Army researchers have reimagined the printed circuit board design into a tube shape with all of the commonly embedded components including resistors, capacitors and inductors typical of flat PCB’s.

The tubular PCB is made from flexible conductive, ply, and dielectric layers with common vertical interconnect accesses connecting electrical components with the conductive layer.

The method for producing this novel board involves a titanium rod that can be various lengths for the production of multiple boards. The rod has several shallow channels machined into its surface to facilitate the vacuum lamination process.

It can easily withstand submersion in chemical etchant, stripping, and plating baths. The various layers of the board are built on the rod by the wrapping, etching, or photoengraving of thin films.

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