Evaluation-breadboard, prototype, and full production-grade electronics circuit boards can be developed from schematic design to full assembly through the use of in-house tools. The physical layout of single and multilayer circuits from a circuit schematic design uses Altium software. Single-layer prototype boards may be manufactured on site using a ±25-µm precision CNC end-mill router (T-Tech2 Model QC-7000-HS) programmed directly from the Gerber file output generated from Altium. Final quality PCB’s require plated through-holes, solder mask, and silk screening. These are ordered from outside vendors via e-mailed files and may arrive from local Rochester businesses or from as far away as California within days.
Surface-mount components can be installed on circuit boards with a fine-pitch stencil printer that applies the solder paste, component placement with a manual or automatic pick-and-place machine, and oven reflow soldering to complete the assembly. Optical inspection and repair of circuit boards use a combination of a video microscope inspection system and a hot-air/infrared rework station.
The Electronics and Controls Engineering Group regularly plays a role in undergraduate, graduate, and high school student education. Typically, an average of two undergraduate electrical engineering co-op students from local colleges work as full-time assistants to supplement the LLE labor force. Each year many students learn basic wiring, soldering, circuit board fabrication, assembly, and electronics testing skills while experiencing full-time employment during work blocks of three months’ duration. Returning students often assume greater engineering responsibilities to supplement this hands-on experience. Engineering, physics, and optics graduate students receive guidance in electronics design, fabrication, and troubleshooting relevant to circuits and equipment used in their thesis research.
The exacting research, skill, and drive to produce the broad range of custom-printed circuit boards at LLE are symptomatic of the agility and aptitude that move LLE ever closer to understanding what makes ignition happen.