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NextFlex® Creates Disneyland® for FHE Engineers

By Jason Marsh, Director of Technology, NextFlex

With the long talked about NextFlex Labs and Technology Hub coming online in the second half of 2017, the first question is, what will we find there? At the basic level, FHE devices combine printed conductors with bare die integration techniques on silicon to yield functional devices. Therefore, it reasons that both printing and bare die integration process tools will be centrally featured at the NextFlex Technology Hub.

NextFlex Tech Hub

Mike Mastropietro, Sr. Engineering Manager of Printing and Additive Processing at NextFlex, points out that when complete, the Technology Hub will have more types of functional printing tools collocated together than in any other facility in the world. The tools that currently see a great deal of use include the semi-automated HMI screen printer (at left), the Optomec 5 Axis aerosol jet and the Meyer Burger IP410 inkjet tools. In addition, we have a Fuji Dimatix printer and Nordson dispensing tools that can deposit functional materials, dielectrics, encapsulants and adhesives. There is an Aerotek stage to allow for a custom process platform for new dispense solutions using plasma jet or electro hydrodynamic methods. You can also find a Northfield Automation Roll-to-Roll tool for testing web processes. Over the next few quarters, the Hub will see delivery of a Sensor Films tool with its Xerox-based heated inkjet head, the nScrypt precision dispensing tool from Sciperio and a gravure offset tool from Komori in Japan that is capable of printing lines at 3µm. These print tools are complemented by thermal batch ovens, thermal conveyor ovens, UV conveyor curing systems and Novacentrix photonic curing systems. In addition, ongoing discussions are underway related to formic acid processing and precision laser ablation using a ESI femtosecond laser system that allows for post processing or advanced structuring as well as via drilling and depanelization of FHE devices.

While the printing room is full of excitement, perhaps the area which has made the largest strides in recent months is the bare die integration process area. Here, the Besi Datacon tool (at right) is used for both dispense and flip chip attach of bare die for anisotropic conductive adhesives. On it, process developments have moved the minimum reliable thickness that can be picked from tape frame for placement from 50 µm to as thin as 30 µm with the help of Peng Lin who joined the team from Apple, and Anh Tran who joined the team from Google this past summer (below). In addition to the Besi, the Universal Instruments tool will allow for panel size scale to much larger formats with greater numbers of components at true production speeds when the process development is complete, and the Hover Davis team makes the necessary modifications to the wafer cassettes. Already, one NextFlex member has taken advantage of this resource and engaged the help of the NextFlex device integration team to place small capacitors in an array antenna application.

NextFlex Anh Tran and Peng LinIn addition to the mainstay tools in this area there are some unique tools that are also available. An Elmarco fiber spinner allows users to print custom functional fibers for textile and wearable integration requirements, and nitrogen-fed glove boxes allow both very clean and oxygen-free assembly of sensitive materials. Other tools that have been contributed, or are planned to be contributed, include an Auger nanoprobe for materials analysis, an Atomic Layer Deposition Tool and a PECVD chamber.

The final area that has received a great deal of interest is the test and measurement and analytical area. The Keyence microscope that allows for nanometer resolution and 3D profiling using a confocal laser is very useful in process analysis as samples do not require vacuum to be measured. Other tools that have seen significant use include dynamic bed test tools and the suite of flex, stretch, and twist test tools that can have dynamic cycling fixtures placed inside temperature humidity chambers thereby allowing for a real test and validation of a multiphysics model or large durations and cycles.

All these capabilities taken together create a very powerful suite of tools that can be used to advance FHE and the NextFlex community. As the activity around and demand for FHE continues to build momentum, it is anticipated that the NextFlex Technology Hub with play an increasingly important role for DoD and industry partners as well as helping to support research efforts for the academic and sponsored research community.

For more information, contact Jason Marsh at NextFlex.