Printed Circuit Boards (PCB), which perform essential functions in electronic devices, including displays and sensors, require a lot of energy to manufacture. In addition, conventional PCB manufacturing processes generate large amounts of liquid waste and high carbon emissions.
Still, there are greener ways to produce printed circuit boards, including additive manufacturing processes using inkjet and laser printing, while fully biodegradable printed circuit boards are also on the horizon.
To get its share of the $90 billion printed circuit board manufacturing pie, Tokyo-based startup Elephantech has developed an eco-friendly printed circuit board called P-Flex that uses inkjet-based electronic circuit manufacturing technology, which it claims reduces CO2 emissions. Emissions reduced by 77% and water consumption by 77% compared to traditional methods.
The key change Elephantech is ushering in the PCB process is that electronic circuits are typically made by what is known as “subtractive” manufacturing, in which an entire surface is coated in metal before the unneeded areas are dissolved with Elephantech’s “pure.” Additives”. It puts metals in place only where they are needed from the start. Nothing is subsequently removed (ie wasted).
The company also says its nanoparticle inkjet technology helps reduce costs by 32% by removing a number of procedures from the manufacturing process.
To live up to its mission of “creating a sustainable world through resource- and energy-efficient manufacturing technologies,” Elephantech has invested 2.15 billion yen (about Eureka News Now.
The new capital, which has raised a total of around 7 billion yen (US$50 million) since its inception in 2014, will help the startup align its business with customers from R&D and its current production volume, which is focused on the domestic market global.
Elephantech started mass production of its PCBs at its Nagoya facility two years ago, and while it is currently focusing on single-sided flexible substrates, it plans to manufacture multi-layer and rigid PCBs, which are made up of various layers including a copper layer, substrate layer and silkscreen layer.
The company said its inkjet printing technology can also be used in other sectors such as healthcare, optics and textiles.
In August, the startup announced a dye-removal technology called Neochromato that it was co-developed with Japanese textile chemicals company Nicca Chemical. The Neochromato process helps remove prints from polyester fabrics without using water and apply a new print to the textiles to reuse the material with a different design before recycling to reduce garment waste.
The outfit said the process could reduce about 48% of carbon emissions when recycling clothes with a different pattern than chemical recycling, which reduces about 20% of carbon emissions.
A number of young startups are working to address and streamline various aspects of the PCB design process, including a company called Celus, which recently raised $25.6 million for a platform that automates PCB design. Then there’s Luminovo, which has secured $11 million to reduce waste in PCB manufacturing by merging the entire materials and production cost process.
So it’s clear that there’s a growing impetus to tweak and improve a technology that powers virtually every electronic device out there, from smartphones to microwave ovens. Combined with growing environmental concerns and the role electronics are playing, Elephantech may be in a strong position to break into global markets, and its recent cash injection will help.
Elephantech’s funding round included investments from Anri V Investment, Shin-Etsu Chemical, Nose, Shizuoka Capital, Eiwa Corporation, Nanobank, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical, Kenbishi Sake Brewing, D&I Investment, Epson, Sumimoto, East Ventures and Beyond Next Ventures.