Taiyo’s John Fix on New Materials, Products in the Works

An interview by Barry Matties, I-Connect007

Feb. 2017

At the recent electronica show in Europe, I sat down with industry icon Walt Custer, and Taiyo’s John Fix, who went into detail about the company’s newest direct image and thermal management solder masks.

Barry Matties: John, can you tell our readers a little bit about Taiyo and what your focus is?

ideaball.jpgJohn Fix: Taiyo is a world leader in solder mask products and solder mask-related products. We make via fill materials and legend inks, which are our main products that we service to the circuit board industry.

Matties: How many years have you been in business?

Fix: Taiyo America just celebrated 26 years, and Taiyo overall recently celebrated 63 years servicing in the business. They’ve been doing solder masks since the late ‘70s.

Matties: Yes, a lot of experience there. Now you guys are currently working on a couple of new products or maybe more than that, but two that I’m aware of.

Fix: Yes. We are working on several items. Some of the newer ones are direct imaging solder masks. Another area that we’re focusing on is thermal management products. A newer one is a heat spreader solder mask.

Matties: Can you describe that product?

Fix: Sure. As the industry advances, everyone is making smaller circuit boards and that requires more copper or heavy copper, which creates more heat. Within the automotive industry, everyone wants to put circuit boards closer to the engines and that’s just more heat. LEDs create a lot of heat, so there are issues with the circuit boards getting hotter; to extend reliability, how do you manage the heat?
Years ago, Taiyo developed a first-generation type of heat spreader material. This was a material that would go onto the circuit board andyou would image how you wanted the heat to be dissipated onto the circuit board. Then you would coat your solder mask over it so a lot of our customers thought that was a great idea, but you just added cost to the process because now you’ve created an extra layer to the circuit board. We went back, thought about it more and said, “Well, let’s try to put that technology into the solder mask itself, eliminating that layer and just create a solder mask that is just a heat spreader in itself.”

That’s what we are introducing now. We’ve taken it to some of the OEMs in the automotive and LED markets first because those are the areas that really must deal with the thermal management issue initially. We’re getting some positive feedback, so we have this new heat spreader-type material. It comes in a thermal-cure solder mask as well as a photoimageable type solder mask. We’ve got two varieties that service the whole industry. Like I said, we’re looking first at the automotive and LED markets to see their interest and there’s quite a bit of interest there.

Matties: I would think so. How effective is it at dissipating the heat?

Fix: It’s about 10 times that of a standard solder mask. The material we have as a photoimageable does about 2 watts per meter-kelvin. It’s quite a level of improvement over a standard solder mask. We found some special type fillers that help dissipate that heat. We also found certain ways to design the circuit board and enhance how the heat is dissipated—so we can work with the designers as well as the circuit board manufacturers to give them those keys on how to make the product work even better.

Matties: Is there a new standard that will be developed around a product like this, and is this the only type of product of its kind on the market?

Fix: Right now, for solder masks, it’s the only kind. A standard, that’s an interesting concept; we haven’t really thought much about designing a standard around it.

This excerpt is from The PCB Magazine, Feb. 2017 issue. To read the full article click here.