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Solderable Polymer Thick-film Conductors for Low Temperature Substrates
Keywords: Polymer Thick-Film, Conductors, Low Temperature Substrates
For decades, polymer thick-film systems have provided a low cost, non-fired option for screen-printing simple electronic circuits. The ability to apply these types of pastes on temperature sensitive substrates such as PET, polycarbonate, and other polymers has facilitated a variety of applications, for instance membrane touch-switch keypads, buss bars for touch screens, and flexible circuitry. Polymer thick-film is also one of the primary technology solutions utilized in the rapidly emerging Printed Electronic market, where flexible, durable materials are paramount to the success of these technologies. Material sets used in polymer thick-film include silver pastes for conductors, carbon pastes for resistive applications, and dielectric pastes. The major challenge with printed silver conductors is that they are not conducive to soldering. This hinders the ability to attach components, leads, dies, or other features to the prints. As copper is solderable, one possible solution would be a copper polymer thick-film metallization; however they start oxidizing at typical paste curing temperatures, 110 – 130oC, rendering them unsuitable for the vast majority of conductive applications. In order to meet these challenges, Heraeus has developed a new line of solderable polymer thick-film conductors based on a high-performance silver-coated copper conductive filler. These metallizations are solderable, resistant to solder leaching, and result in sheet resistivities approaching that of pure silver polymer conductors. The prints do not degrade in performance when cured at temperatures as high as 200oC. The new product line was formulated to accept different types of solders including traditional SAC-305 and Bi-Sn solders, which serves as a complete matched solution for designers. The new metallization opens up new applications given its ability to print polymer circuitry on a variety of substrates including aluminum, steel, FR4, polyimide, and glass. The technology allows for the fabrication of more complex circuitry on these types of substrates, giving circuit designers a powerful new tool in their toolbox in applications such as LED lighting, sensors, and heaters. Finally, these materials may provide a lower-cost option for solderable flexible polymer end terminations for components used in vibration sensitive applications, for instance the automotive industry.
Gregory Berube,
Heraeus Precious Metals North America
West Conshohocken, PA

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