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Thermoplastic EXTEM™ Resins for Optical Components Assembled via Lead-Free SMT
Keywords: thermoplastic, resins, lead-free smt
Optical interconnects, used in chip-to-chip or on-chip interconnections, are not much used commercially since optical interconnects technology is a major step change compared to copper based interconnects, that are used for many years with well-known manufacturing processes and assembly methods that are currently used in the semiconductor industry. The logical conclusion is that in order to ease transfer to a novel technology with the high bit-rate optical interconnects, the needed technological step should be made as small as possible. Consequently, on board-level interconnects, the technologies should be made compatible with the conventional circuit board assembling practices like reflow soldering (SMT), and the costs per interconnect capacity should be competitive with copper-based ones in mass-production. A key part of these optical interconnects are the micro-optical elements that are often utilized to enhance the optical coupling efficiency. Thermoset polymers, as well as optical glass, can be used for these lenses, but both materials have significant drawbacks, and that is the cost associated with using these materials at mass production is very high, related to a need for time consuming curing steps, and (in the case of glass), grinding and polishing. The preferred material for these micro lens arrays would be a thermoplastic polymer, because it is cost efficient, meets the optical requirement and can be easy produced in mass quantities. SABIC has several decades of history in supplying thermoplastic polymers in the opto-electronics industry. ULTEM™ resins are been widely used in this industry as fiber-optic components in pluggable trans-receivers. These resins have building blocks enabling IR light transmission without degrading signal quality. They can be injection-molded into thin, precision optical lenses and connectors. However, ULTEM™ resins, as most IR transparent thermoplastic polymers, may not be well suited to withstand a typical, lead free, reflow soldering process, which typically means peak temperatures in the order of 260 °C for around one minute. In order to find a solution for this, and facilitate the industrial use of on board optical interconnects, SABIC has commercialized a new thermoplastic polyimide (TPI), EXTEM™ resins, that is amenable to lead-free soldering, with glass transition temperature reaching to ~267 C, well above typical reflow peak temperatures being used by the industry. In this poster session, we will discuss material properties of EXTEM™ resins, including mechanical and heat properties, as well as important optical parameters like refractive index (incl temperature dependence) and IR transmission (as function of thickness). From reflow experiments, we will show EXTEM™ resins resistance against high temperatures without deformation or IR transmission loss. Special features like optical filters for blocking all light below 700 nm, as well as attenuation control, will be discussed as well. SABIC and brands marked ™ are trademarks of SABIC or affiliates.
Peter Johnson,
Bergen op Zoom,

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