With the increase in mobile communications from cellular phones, IoT devices and more, the demand for special materials in circuit board manufacturing has increased as well. To help you understand your options, we put together a Q&A with Rogers Corporation, a leading manufacturer of engineered materials.
Thanks to Sheryl Long, Marketing Communications Manager, Advanced Connectivity Solutions, Rogers Corporation, for providing these answers!
What is your most popular material and why?
RO4000® Series Laminates and Bondplies. They combine the ease of FR-4 –like process compatibility with RF performance in a cost effective material as compared to traditional PTFE based RF materials.
Are you seeing any particular trends in materials requirements?
We are seeing customers continuing to seek materials manufactured with smooth copper foil for improved insertion loss and reduced passive intermodulation (PIM). We continue to see a trend to higher Dk for applications at lower frequencies where circuit size is a concern. There is also a need for materials with improved conductivity to deal with increased power levels in LTE network evolution.
Looking into the future, what emerging materials do you see having a significant impact and why?
We continue to see requests for materials with improved thermal conductivity vs. what we have today. Also across several markets we see the push up to 77GHz and the adoption of thinner dielectric materials with smooth copper is underway. 5G is bringing interest for materials with low Dk and low loss tangent.
What are the top 3 questions (and answers) you are asked about your materials?
1. Why are RF materials more expensive than FR-4?
RF materials possess unique electrical properties (achieved through the use of specialty resins and fillers) that enable designers the ability to meet their demanding requirements at frequencies above 500 MHz. For example, the Dk of these materials is tightly controlled and the loss of the dielectric is extremely low. These properties make the material unique and it behaves as if the circuit board were a component.
2. How do I process Rogers’ materials?
These materials are divided into two groups: 1) PTFE based materials and 2) Thermoset materials. Thermoset materials, in essence, process similarly to FR-4 with the exception in drilling and routing where, due to the ceramic filler particles used, different feeds and speeds are required compared to FR-4. For PTFE based dielectric materials, these are “soft dielectrics” and may require special handling through automated lines, special processing prior to plated through hole processing and possibly higher lamination temperatures for MLB designs. Rogers recommends that prior to processing these materials, contact a member of our global Technical Services team to assist you in getting started.
3. How do we learn more about Rogers’ materials?
Visit the Technology Support Hub to access microwave calculators, educational videos, technical webinars, whitepapers and conference presentations given by Rogers’ technical experts on various microwave related topics rogerscorp.com/techub.
What is something about the materials (or a specific material) that your customers don’t know but they probably should?
Rogers has historically been known as a market leader for PTFE based materials (RT/duroid® laminates) and thermoset woven- glass materials (RO4000® laminates). However, now with the acquisition of Arlon in January 2015, Rogers is the global leader in PTFE/woven-glass materials (CuClad®, AD Series™ laminates).
What improvements have you been making in your manufacturing processes that has improved the quality of the final product?
We recently installed additional RO4000® material manufacturing capability in our Suzhou China plant and a new RO3000® dielectric production line in Chandler, AZ. Both projects employ the latest state of the art production and quality control technology.
The cost of materials is always a question. What price increases are you anticipating over the next 12 to 24 months?
There are many factors that have influenced the decision of price increases in the past. Because of this, it is very difficult to see, with certainty, how these factors will affect production costs over the next 12 to 24 months. However, Rogers always endeavors to keep our material prices as low as possible. We are constantly working on developing paths for cost reduction of our materials like the case of RO4360G2™ laminate as a means to cost reduce designs that would have gone on RO3006™ PTFE material.
Speed of availability of materials is frequently a concern. Are there any suggestions that can help engineers plan better for their next PCB project when it comes to material availability?
We understand this is a concern which is why we invested over $20 million in capacity expansions over the last 3 years. Providing a detailed forecast to the Rogers’ Sales Engineer, enables us to begin producing and staging materials in support of customer projects. For early stage prototype activities, we recently launched a North American Quick Turn Inventory Program and are in the planning stages for launching a similar program in Europe.
What are two or three main things that you want your customers to know about your materials?
Rogers is the leading global supplier of high quality RF circuit materials with almost 50 years of experience supporting design and fabrication engineers through our highly experienced global team.
Rogers invests significantly in our R&D activities to be able to develop the next generation of materials for emerging technologies. We often work with the design engineers to develop materials that will address these new applications.
We trust that these answers will help you have a better understanding of what Rogers has to offer for your next PCB Design project. Reach out to our team if you have any questions about using Rogers for your next project.
You can also take a look at our Material Library to some of the many options we have.
And check out our article, Cost Determining Factors When Quoting PCBs for further explanation on how material options can impact your costs.