Printed circuit boards (pcb), which perform essential functions in electronic devices, including displays and sensors, require a lot of energy to create. In addition, traditional PCB manufacturing processes generate large amounts of liquid waste and high carbon emissions.
Still, there are more environmentally friendly ways to produce PCBs, including additive manufacturing processes that use inkjet and laser printing, while fully biodegradable PCBs also on the horizon.
To get a piece of it $90 billion PCB manufacturing pieTokyo-based startup Elephant tech has developed an environmentally friendly PCB called P Flexutilizing inkjet printing-based electronic circuit manufacturing technology, which it claims reduces carbon emissions by 77% and water consumption by 95% compared to conventional processes.
The main change Elephantech is making to the PCB process is that while electronic circuits are typically made through so-called “subtractive” manufacturing, where an entire surface is covered with metal before the areas that are not needed are solved with Elephantech’s ” pure additive” process, it only puts metals in place where they are initially needed. Nothing is subsequently deleted (i.e. wasted).
The company also says its nanoparticle inkjet technology helps cut costs by 32% by eliminating a number of procedures from the manufacturing process.
To fulfill its mission “to create a sustainable world through resource and energy efficient production technologies”, Elephantech has secured 2.15 billion yen (~$15 million) in funding, at a valuation of 12.3 billion yen ($88 million), a company spokesman said. australiabusinessblog.com.
The new capital, which brings total capital raised to approximately 7 billion yen ($50 million) since its inception in 2014, will help the startup scale up its business from R&D and its current production volume, which is focused on its domestic market, to reach customers worldwide.
Elephantech began mass-producing its PCBs at its Nagoya facility two years ago, and while it currently focuses on single-sided flexible substrates, it plans to produce multilayer and rigid PCBs, which form several layers including a copper layer, substrate layer and silkscreen layer.
The company said its inkjet printing technology could also be used in other industries, such as healthcare, optics and textiles.
The start-up will start in August announced a dye removal technology called neochromato, developed in collaboration with the Japanese textile chemical company Nicca Chemical. The neochromato process supports the removal of print from polyester fabrics without using water, and the application of a new print to the fabric to reuse the material with a different design before recycling to reduce clothing waste.
The outfit said the process could reduce about 48% of carbon emissions when clothing is recycled with a different pattern compared to chemical recycling, which cuts about 20% of carbon emissions.
A number of fledgling startups are working to address and optimize various aspects of the PCB design process, including a company called Celus, which recently raised $25.6 million for a platform that automates printed circuit board design. Then there is Luminovoraising $11 million to reduce waste in PCB manufacturing by bringing together the entire material and manufacturing cost process.
So it’s clear that there’s a growing push to optimize and improve a technology that powers just about every electronic device out there, from smartphones to microwave ovens. Combined with growing concerns about the environment and the role electronics play in it, Elephantech may be in a strong position to gain traction in global markets, and the latest 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.