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Evaluation of Epoxy Flux for Use in Hearing Aid SMD Assemblies
Keywords: Epoxy flux, underfill, flexible circuit
Miniaturization of every day products has been driving sales for some time and continues to fuel the consumer market. Everyone expects size reduction with each new product generation. Almost everything has electronics inside that must get smaller. There is no market demanding smaller devices that are faster, more capable, more feature rich than that of the hearing aid industry. While radios, Bluetooth wireless systems and other accessories are added to hearing instruments feature list, the consumer nonetheless continues to wish for them to be even smaller. Advancements in circuit fabrication, component shrinkage and die consolidation have aided the industry in satisfying this need. However, as this demand continues and even intensifies, current surface mount device assembly materials are becoming inadequate and the limiting factor for overall circuit size reduction; specifically, the die attachment, protection and reinforcement process is limiting how small hearing aid circuits can be. For hearing aids, the addition of more features and connection to more accessories each require a number of integrated circuits and associated passives attached to a flexible circuit. These circuits are invariably bent and twisted during assembly, up to 180°, requiring the integrated circuit solder joints to be reinforced by underfilling to prevent detachment. Unfortunately, the underfilling process is time consuming and the capillary action necessary for its success is finicky. Even more unfavorably, a designated “keep out” area for other components must surround the die to be underfilled to allow for the dispensing equipment to access the die, reducing the useable board space and limiting the overall possibility of circuit size reduction. Additionally, the underfill material must stay away from circuit board edges and areas to be bent during final assembly. In an attempt to increase useable circuit board space, decrease overall circuit board size, and reduce assembly steps, the application of two epoxy flux materials for die attach fluxing and underfilling of hearing aids was evaluated. Epoxy flux is a relatively new material, which combines the functionality of flux and underfill into a single step. Epoxy flux’s application, while eliminating steps, would more significantly eliminate the necessary “keep out” areas around die and allow for more densely placed surface mount components. The epoxy flux materials were applied by both printing and dipping, and then evaluated using x-ray, sonoscope, die peel testing, multiple reflow testing, sheer testing, and cross-sectioning.
Susie Krzmarzick, New Product Analytical Engineer
Starkey Hearing Technologies
Eden Prairie, MN

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