Laser micromachining is the chosen method for vertical interconnect access point (VIA) formation in flex PCB layers. Even so, this method suffers from several inherent physical issues as a result of the intense localized heating causing strong Marangoni convection and the buildup of recast along the VIA upper crater walls while also scattered particle debris and oxidation of copper across the surface. The mitigation of the height and radius of this recast layer is critical for the following build-up process and device functionality and reliability. This is currently a major technology inhibitor to the adoption of flex PCBs for high-power electronics. In this study, we present experimental results showing the use of engineered sacrificial layers that coat the surface of the flex PCB substrate during the laser micromachining process. Optimization of this engineered sacrificial layer resulted in a major improvement in recast quality and debris control as well as reducing the oxide formation while increasing the laser drilling efficiency, attributable to increased surface pressure on the substrate. In this paper, we describe the methods and materials used in the development of sacrificial layers and show the positive impact it achieves on improving and modifying the plasma characteristics throughout the overall laser drilling process.
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