Laser Direct Structuring (LDS) was invented at the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences in Lemgo between 1997 to 2002 as part of a research project in conjunction with LPKF Laser & Electronics AG. It was patented by the inventors and initially licensed exclusively to LPKF. In 2002, the patents for the LDS method were transferred to LPKF. LPKF is based in Garbsen is only 15 km away from the Crout Nord office in Neustadt am Rübenberge.
The LDS method uses a thermoplastic doped with a (non-conductive) laser-activatable metal compound as a plastic additive. The basic component is injection moulded. Almost any 3D structure is therefore possible. A laser beam is used on the base compound material as a first step to writing the conductive tracks onto the surface of the plastic. Where the laser beam hits the plastic, the surface is slightly abraded and “roughened”. At the same time, metal nuclei are split off from the additive and distributed on the surface. These metal particles catalyse the subsequent chemical-reductive copper metallisation in which layers of copper, nickel or a gold finish can be applied by electroplating.
With appropriate laser control, the LDS process can achieve 3D structures in a full spherical range. If necessary, integrated circuits can be placed on LDS structures using flip-chip assembly. This is shown in the demo enclosure in the photo montage. The second LDS enclosure is for an LTE smartwatch with GNSS and Wi-Fi /BLE.