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Laser Etching of Different Conductors for RF Applications
Keywords: laser etching, RF Applications, high reliability
Thick film customers who require fine line resolution for their circuitry typically utilize wet chemical etching as a means to reduce conductor’s lines and spaces when fine line definition cannot be reliably attained with screen printing alone. This process typically has the means to reduce conductor line widths from a printed definition of 3 mil (75 μm) to as low as 1 mil (25 μm) lines and spaces. The process of performing this chemical etching is time consuming and costly when factoring in the necessary process limitations. With the issues presented by wet chemical etching, thick film customers are presented with a high process cost, yield loss due to the imaging process, and costly wastewater/environmental treatment regulations. Therefore, laser etching will be presented as an alternative method to wet chemical etching for various thick film conductor products. For many years, specialized gold formulations have been etched using typical wet chemical etching processes. Standard and less costly conductor alloys that typically would not be suitable for wet chemical etching will be explored, possibly opening the doors for a wide variety of different applications which would benefit from utilizing this laser etching method. By being able to utilize different conductor alloys (Ag, Cu, etc.), laser etching offers alternative solutions for some of these applications with the added benefit of improved cost and increased throughput. As an example, wet chemical processing of silver conductors has proven to be very challenging in some cases due to the metal form-factor and specialized glasses required. By having the option of laser ablating the silver, a potentially advantageous and cost effective option would now be possible. Taking into account that laser etching of thick film conductors on ceramic is a relatively new method, this paper will concentrate on some of the opportunities/advantages it can offer. It will illustrate the boundaries of laser etching and how it compares to wet chemical etching while determining/comparing the impact on several properties including adhesion, signal propagation, line definition, and other important defining characteristics of the fired film in the final application.
Stephanie Edwards, Engineer
Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania
United States

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