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NextFlex Experts Highlight FHE Technologies to the Surface Engineering Community at the 2021 SVC TechCon

Contributed by Chris Stossel, Sr. Manager, Process Development, Eastman Chemical

Two high-profile talks at the annual conference of the Society of Vacuum Coaters (SVC) briefed TechCon attendees on key aspects of Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) and the role of NextFlex in the FHE ecosystem.

An invited talk by Dr. Art Wall, Director of Fab Operations at the NextFlex San Jose, CA headquarters, provided attendees with an introduction to FHE from the NextFlex perspective. He highlighted key applications that drive this emerging technology space in defense and civilian applications. An overview of critical process capabilities required for device manufacturing was described and complemented by a walk-through of the impressive toolset that is accessible to NextFlex members at the San Jose hub, as well as several other nodes throughout the United States. The audience was impressed by the maturity level of the product demonstrators and the comprehensive approach the NextFlex consortium pursues to move this emerging technology field forward — including significant attention to workforce development, leveraging critical innovation from academic institutions and entrepreneurs, and engaging a broad expert base along the entire value chain.

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Image Courtesy NextFlex

The technical content of Dr. Wall’s presentation included aspects of screen printing and the impact of ink rheology on process optimization for high yield. There are many other printing options for FHE, and Dr. Wall presented features built into the tools to improve printing quality. An important aspect of Flexible Hybrid Electronics is the use of very thin chips which are directly attached to the printed circuits. To make this feasible, a number of materials, processes, and tools were described, including anisotropic conductive adhesives, die bonders, high-resolution laser ablation, and more.

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Image Courtesy Northeastern University

Professor Ahmed Busnaina of Northeastern University (a NextFlex member) focused on an innovative additive manufacturing method for printing electronics and sensors. The approach is estimated to cost one to two orders of magnitude less than the current conventional semiconductor manufacturing. This new disruptive technology will enable the fabrication of nanoelectronics and allows device designers to use any organic or inorganic semiconducting, conductive, or insulating material on flexible or rigid substrates. This will enable the industry to leverage novel properties of nanomaterials such as two-dimensional (2D) materials, quantum dots, nanotubes, etc. The new technology is enabled by directed assembly-based nanoscale printing at ambient temperature and pressure that can print 1000x faster and 1000x smaller (down to 20nm) structures than conventional ink-jet-based printing. The nanoscale printing platform enables the heterogeneous integration of interconnected circuit layers (like CMOS) of printed electronics and sensors at ambient temperature and pressure. The processes are scalable, sustainable, and designed to enable precise and repeatable control of the assembly of various nanomaterials at a high rate. The technology has demonstrated the printing of several devices, including transistors, inverters, diodes, chemical and biosensors, and interconnects using a variety of nanomaterials at the nano and microscale.

Professor Busnaina’s presentation is available on the on-demand virtual proceedings (svc.swoogo.com/ondemandtechcon21/home), and his contribution is also featured in the fall edition of the SVC Bulletin.

The 2021 SVC TechCon featured for the first time a session focused on Additive Manufacturing which is the basis for producing FHE devices, creating a forum where experts in surface and interface engineering learned about the purpose and benefits of FHE and could discuss challenges and possible solutions to advance the emerging field.

The next SVC TechCon will be held in person in Long Beach, California, from May 02-05, and combines a technical program with a diverse educational program, the industry’s largest exhibit, and ample networking opportunities. The SVC provides an application-oriented forum for practitioners in vacuum coating, surface, and interface engineering for a broad range of markets and applications. Contributed talks and posters are welcome, and the Additive Manufacturing session may be of particular interest to highlight innovation and application opportunities in the FHE space for NextFlex members. Check SVCTechCon.com for additional information.

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