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Key Opportunities for FHE Technologies in Electronics Integration and Advanced Packaging

by Nick Morris, FHE Technology Manager

Creating and maintaining a robust commercial ecosystem around flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) is one of NextFlex’s primary goals. To help achieve this, we coordinate eleven technical working groups (TWGs) made up of devoted NextFlex members and government partners to identify key technology gaps and technology planning requirements to advance the manufacturability of FHE. The primary output of these groups are 5-year manufacturing technology roadmaps. Until now, the FHE Manufacturing Roadmaps have been exclusively a benefit to our members, but earlier this year, we developed and published a publicly available summary on our website.

This is the first in a series of blog posts on the FHE Manufacturing Roadmap Summary which highlights key opportunities identified by each TWG. First up, Device Integration & Packaging:

The Device Integration and Packaging TWG encompasses many technologies which are very important now given recent focus on additive approaches for advanced semiconductor packaging, particularly in onshoring novel packaging capabilities to the US. The broad focus of this group is to establish manufacturing methods for preparing, placing, interconnecting, and protecting circuit components onto FHE substrates for the fabrication of flexible, conformal, and 3D electronic circuits.

Roadmap taxonomies and technical gap areas identified by the Device Integration & Packaging Group

Recent advancements by the manufacturing community have pushed the state-of-the-art in areas including number of device conductive layers, via diameters, integrated die size, and printed interconnect pitch size. It is important to note that, all the metrics cited on the FHE Manufacturing Roadmap Summary are through a manufacturing lens, with a focus on capabilities of manufacturing processes at or beyond MRL 4. Lab-based fundamental technologies likely exceed the values on this roadmap, but have not yet been matured to the readiness level appropriate for adoption into pilot manufacturing.

In terms of key opportunities identified, the Device Integration & Packaging TWG sees significant opportunities in advanced semiconductor packaging, such as using additive / printing techniques to replace wire bonding in 3D and multilayer integration, for example. Enabling heterogenous integration, 2.5D and 3D architectures, and system-in-packages components are all electronics packaging approaches that are a growing focus for NextFlex. These packaging technologies are poised to benefit from novel additive techniques that provide distinct capabilities on both flexible and rigid substrates.

The working group also identified significant interest from PCB manufacturers for processes with fully and semi-additive manufacturing, not on the prototyping scale, but volume manufacturing. Unlocking more efficient and cost-effective high mix, low volume manufacturing of custom assemblies will drive technology adoption in this industry and is something suppliers to the defense market have particular interest in. Other key opportunities include assembly tools for thin die handling and placement, component assembly on both sides of an FHE substrate for 3D and multilayer electronics, and more reliable electromechanical interconnects between rigid-to-flex, flex-to-flex, and flex-to stretch components.

For more information, download the NextFlex FHE Manufacturing Roadmap Summary!


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