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Significant new demand for electroformed parts

Tecan : 24 January, 2002  (Company News)
Micro-engineered electroformed metal parts are gaining rapid ground, where traditional machined components cannot compete. Across a vast range of applications in electronics design and manufacturing they offer new and unprecedented cost/performance ratios with unparalleled performance characteristics.
Ground-breaking manufacturing techniques have been developed by Dorset based Tecan, allowing designers to specify increasingly small and complex metal parts. Typical tolerances can be as fine as 8 microns, in some cases tolerances of 2 microns can be achieved. Single-thickness and three-dimensional parts can be produced readily.

'One of the greatest benefits to our customers, is an increasing appreciation of photo-electroforming and the opportunities it offers their designers as they liaise with our own', said Noel Cherowbrier, Tecan's sales and marketing director.

'As designers' relationships develop, they increasingly realise that we can make micro-metal components with more exacting designs and tighter tolerances than they ever realised was traditionally achievable. Unique and extremely sophisticated three-dimensional parts are now being conceived as OEM engineers and designers think laterally with the wider technology envelope available to them, through the traditional 'X/Y' axis, and now beyond, through exploitation of the 'Z' axis too.'

A recent example came in the form of a single order, worth 0.5 million, from a prestige International medical equipment company. Following a development period which moved away from the company's original component design, which was prone to production and repeatability problems, a completely new part was conceived. This can described as an open-topped oblong box, measuring just 787 micron (W) x 1980 micron (L) and with side walls 100 micron high and only 130 micron thick. Crucially, the multi-level process provides the, 32 micron thick, base of the ultra-miniature box with a mesh matrix of tiny holes, each just 50.6 micron across. Not only does the new all-in-one part significantly exceed the original specification, it is cost-effective and consistently accurate. It is quick and easy to assemble and offers optimum yields.

A further example, developed for a world-leading electronics company, is a 45micron thick gold-plated encoder disk featuring a series of round holes, each only 35micron in diameter with a tolerance of 5micron, in this case first samples were produced within one working week.

Electroforming business at Tecan almost doubled last year, the expansion continues and is now tangibly reflected in a dedicated 1 million new building. This is currently under construction and due for completion in early summer, it will house state-of-the-art equipment and a Class 1000 clean room with selected integral Class 100 areas. The facility will produce next-generation PEF parts with even tighter tolerances, higher precision, finer definition, and greater 3-D aspect ratios, for use in electronics, space, aerospace, medical, optical and measurement markets.
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