Thick-film technology

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Thick-film technology is used to produce electronic devices such as surface mount devices, hybrid integrated circuits, heating elements and sensors.

Hybrid integrated circuit miniaturized electronic circuit combining different semiconductor devices and passive components on a substrate

A hybrid integrated circuit (HIC), hybrid microcircuit, hybrid circuit or simply hybrid is a miniaturized electronic circuit constructed of individual devices, such as semiconductor devices and passive components, bonded to a substrate or printed circuit board (PCB). A PCB having components on a Printed Wiring Board (PWB) is not considered a hybrid circuit according to the definition of MIL-PRF-38534.

Heating element converts electricity into heat through the process of resistive or Joule heating (electric current passing through the element encounters resistance, resulting in heating of the element; this process is independent of the direction of current flow)

A heating element converts electrical energy into heat through the process of Joule heating. Electric current passing through the element encounters resistance, resulting in heating of the element. Unlike the Peltier effect, this process is independent of the direction of current flow.

Sensor converter that measures a physical quantity and converts it into a signal

In the broadest definition, a sensor is a device, module, or subsystem whose purpose is to detect events or changes in its environment and send the information to other electronics, frequently a computer processor. A sensor is always used with other electronics.

Contents

Thick-film circuits are widely used in the automotive industry, both in sensors, e.g. mixture of fuel/air, pressure sensors, engine and gearbox controls, sensor for releasing airbags, ignitors to airbags; common is that high reliability is required, often extended temperature range also along massive thermocycling of circuits without failure.

The manufacture of such devices is an additive process involving deposition of several successive layers of conductor, resistors and dielectric layers onto an electrically insulating substrate using a screen-printing process. A typical thick-film process would consist of the following stages:

Steps

Lasering of substrates

Most used substrates are made of 96% alumina Al2O3. Alumina is very hard and not very machinable, therefore lasering of the material is the most efficient way to machine it. The thick-film process is also a process of miniaturization where one substrates normally contain many units (final circuits), with the lasering it is possible to scribe, profile and drill holes. Scribing is a lasering process where a line of laser pulses are fire into the material and 30–50% of the material is removed, this weakens the substrate, after all other process are done to build the thick film circuit the substrates can easily be divided into single units. Profiling are for example used lot in the sensor, where a circuit need to fit round tubes or other different complex shapes. Drilling of holes, provide via between the two sides of the substrate, normally hole sizes are in the range 0.15–0.2 mm.

Lasering before processing the substrates has a cost advantage to lasering or dicing using diamond saw after processing.

Ink preparation

Inks for electrodes, terminals, resistors, dielectric layers etc. are commonly prepared by mixing the metal or ceramic powders required with an organic vehicle to produce a paste for screen-printing. To achieve a homogeneous ink the mixed components of the ink may be passed through a three-roll mill. Alternatively, ready made inks may be obtained from one of the many companies offering products for the thick-film technologist.

Organic compound Chemical compound that contains carbon (except for several compounds traditionally classified as inorganic compounds)

In chemistry, an organic compound is generally any chemical compound that contains carbon. Due to carbon's ability to catenate, millions of organic compounds are known. The study of the properties, reactions, and syntheses of organic compounds comprises the discipline known as organic chemistry. For historical reasons, a few classes of carbon-containing compounds, along with a handful of other exceptions, are not classified as organic compounds and are considered inorganic. Other than those just named, little consensus exists among chemists on precisely which carbon-containing compounds are excluded, making any rigorous definition of an organic compound elusive.

Screen-printing

Screen-printing is the process of transferring an ink through a patterned woven mesh screen or stencil using a squeegee.

Drying/Curing

After allowing time after printing for settling of the ink, each layer of ink that is deposited is usually dried at a moderately high temperature (50 to 200 °C) to evaporate the liquid component of the ink and fix the layer temporarily in position on the substrate so that it can be handled or stored before final processing. For inks based on polymers and some solder pastes that cure at these temperatures this may be the final step that is required. Some inks also require curing by exposure to UV light.

Curing is a chemical process employed in polymer chemistry and process engineering that produces the toughening or hardening of a polymer material by cross-linking of polymer chains. Even if it is strongly associated with the production of thermosetting polymers, the term curing can be used for all the processes where starting from a liquid solution, a solid product is obtained.

Ultraviolet Electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays

Ultraviolet (UV) designates a band of the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelength from 10 nm to 400 nm, shorter than that of visible light but longer than X-rays. UV radiation is present in sunlight, and contributes about 10% of the total output of the Sun. It is also produced by electric arcs and specialized lights, such as mercury-vapor lamps, tanning lamps, and black lights. Although long-wavelength ultraviolet is not considered an ionizing radiation because its photons lack the energy to ionize atoms, it can cause chemical reactions and causes many substances to glow or fluoresce. Consequently, the chemical and biological effects of UV are greater than simple heating effects, and many practical applications of UV radiation derive from its interactions with organic molecules.

Firing

For many of the metal, ceramic and glass inks used in thick film processes a high temperature (usually greater than 300 °C) firing is required to fix the layers in position permanently on the substrate.

Laser trimming of resistors

After firing, the substrate resistors are trimmed to the correct value. This process is named laser trimming. Many chip resistors are made using thick-film technology. Large substrates are printed with resistors fired, divided into small chips and these are then terminated, so they can be soldered on the PCB board. With laser trimming two modes are used; either passive trimming, where each resistor is trimmed to a specific value and tolerance, or active trimming, where the feedback is used to adjust to a specific voltage, frequency or response by laser trimming the resistors on the circuit while powered up.

Laser trimming

Laser trimming is the manufacturing process of using a laser to adjust the operating parameters of an electronic circuit.

Mounting of capacitors semiconductors

The development of the SMD process actually evolves from the thick film process. Also mounting of naked dies (the actual silicon chip without encapsulation) and wire bonding is a standard process, this provides the basis for minituarization of the circuits as all the extra encapsulation is not necessary.

Separation of elements

This step is often necessary because many components are produced on one substrate at the same time. Thus, some means of separating the components from each other is required. This step may be achieved by wafer dicing.

Integration of devices

At this stage the devices may require integrating with other electronic components, usually in the form of a printed circuit board. This may be achieved by wire bonding or soldering.

See also


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Printed circuit board Board to support and connect electronic components

A printed circuit board (PCB) mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components or electrical components using conductive tracks, pads and other features etched from one or more sheet layers of copper laminated onto and/or between sheet layers of a non-conductive substrate. Components are generally soldered onto the PCB to both electrically connect and mechanically fasten them to it.

Microtechnology is technology with features near one micrometre.

Surface-mount technology method for producing electronic circuits

Surface-mount technology (SMT) is a method for producing electronic circuits in which the components are mounted or placed directly onto the surface of printed circuit boards (PCBs). An electronic device so made is called a surface-mount device (SMD). In industry, it has largely replaced the through-hole technology construction method of fitting components with wire leads into holes in the circuit board. Both technologies can be used on the same board, with the through-hole technology used for components not suitable for surface mounting such as large transformers and heat-sinked power semiconductors.

Flexible electronics

Flexible electronics, also known as flex circuits, is a technology for assembling electronic circuits by mounting electronic devices on flexible plastic substrates, such as polyimide, PEEK or transparent conductive polyester film. Additionally, flex circuits can be screen printed silver circuits on polyester. Flexible electronic assemblies may be manufactured using identical components used for rigid printed circuit boards, allowing the board to conform to a desired shape, or to flex during its use. An alternative approach to flexible electronics suggests various etching techniques to thin down the traditional silicon substrate to few tens of micrometers to gain reasonable flexibility, referred to as flexible silicon.

An antifuse is an electrical device that performs the opposite function to a fuse. Whereas a fuse starts with a low resistance and is designed to permanently break an electrically conductive path, an antifuse starts with a high resistance and is designed to permanently create an electrically conductive path. This technology has many applications.

IBM Solid Logic Technology

Solid Logic Technology (SLT) was IBM's method for packaging electronic circuitry introduced in 1964 with the IBM System/360 series and related machines. IBM chose to design custom hybrid circuits using discrete, flip chip-mounted, glass-encapsulated transistors and diodes, with silk screened resistors on a ceramic substrate, forming an SLT module. The circuits were either encapsulated in plastic or covered with a metal lid. Several of these SLT modules were then mounted on a small multi-layer printed circuit board to make an SLT card. Each SLT card had a socket on one edge that plugged into pins on the computer's backplane.

The role of the substrate in power electronics is to provide the interconnections to form an electric circuit, and to cool the components. Compared to materials and techniques used in lower power microelectronics, these substrates must carry higher currents and provide a higher voltage isolation. They also must operate over a wide temperature range.

Printed electronics

Printed electronics is a set of printing methods used to create electrical devices on various substrates. Printing typically uses common printing equipment suitable for defining patterns on material, such as screen printing, flexography, gravure, offset lithography, and inkjet. By electronic industry standards, these are low cost processes. Electrically functional electronic or optical inks are deposited on the substrate, creating active or passive devices, such as thin film transistors; capacitors; coils; resistors. Printed electronics is expected to facilitate widespread, very low-cost, low-performance electronics for applications such as flexible displays, smart labels, decorative and animated posters, and active clothing that do not require high performance.

Thermal copper pillar bump

The thermal copper pillar bump, also known as the "thermal bump", is a thermoelectric device made from thin-film thermoelectric material embedded in flip chip interconnects for use in electronics and optoelectronic packaging, including: flip chip packaging of CPU and GPU integrated circuits (chips), laser diodes, and semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOA). Unlike conventional solder bumps that provide an electrical path and a mechanical connection to the package, thermal bumps act as solid-state heat pumps and add thermal management functionality locally on the surface of a chip or to another electrical component. The diameter of a thermal bump is 238 μm and 60 μm high.

A semiconductor package is a metal, plastic, glass, or ceramic casing containing one or more discrete semiconductor devices or integrated circuits. Individual components are fabricated on semiconductor wafers before being diced into die, tested, and packaged. The package provides a means for connecting the package to the external environment, such as printed circuit board, via leads such as lands, balls, or pins; and protection against threats such as mechanical impact, chemical contamination, and light exposure. Additionally, it helps dissipate heat produced by the device, with or without the aid of a heat spreader. There are thousands of package types in use. Some are defined by international, national, or industry standards, while others are particular to an individual manufacturer.

The Occam process is a solder-free, Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS)-compliant method for use in the manufacturing of electronic circuit boards developed by Verdant Electronics. It combines the usual two steps of the construction of printed circuit boards (PCBs) followed by the population process of placing various leaded and non-leaded electronic components into one process.

Failure of electronic components Ways electronic elements fail and prevention measures

Electronic components have a wide range of failure modes. These can be classified in various ways, such as by time or cause. Failures can be caused by excess temperature, excess current or voltage, ionizing radiation, mechanical shock, stress or impact, and many other causes. In semiconductor devices, problems in the device package may cause failures due to contamination, mechanical stress of the device, or open or short circuits.

Glass frit bonding, also referred to as glass soldering or seal glass bonding, describes a wafer bonding technique with an intermediate glass layer. It is a widely used encapsulation technology for surface micro-machined structures, e.g., accelerometers or gyroscopes. This technique utilizes low melting glass and therefore provides various advantages including that viscosity of glass decreases with an increase of temperature. The viscous flow of glass has effects to compensate and planarize surface irregularities, convenient for bonding wafers with a high roughness due to plasma etching or deposition. A low viscosity promotes hermetically sealed encapsulation of structures based on a better adaption of the structured shapes. Further, the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) of the glass material is adapted to silicon. This results in low stress in the bonded wafer pair.

Reactive bonding describes a wafer bonding procedure using highly reactive nanoscale multilayer systems as an intermediate layer between the bonding substrates. The multilayer system consists of two alternating different thin metallic films. The self-propagating exothermic reaction within the multilayer system contributes the local heat to bond the solder films. Based on the limited temperature the substrate material is exposed, temperature-sensitive components and materials with different CTEs, i.e. metals, polymers and ceramics, can be used without thermal damage.

Photoimageable thick-film technology

Photoimageable thick-film technology is a combination of conventional thick film technology with elements of thin film technology, and it provides a low cost solution to producing high quality microwave circuits. The ability to directly photoimage the printed layers means that the technology can provide the high line and gap resolution required by high frequency planar components. It provides a feasible fabrication process to produce circuits operating at microwave and millimetre-wave frequencies. Circuits made using this technology meet the modern requirements for high density packaging, whilst yielding the high quality components required for very high frequency applications, including wireless communication, radar and measurement systems.

Co-fired ceramic

Co-fired ceramic devices are monolithic, ceramic microelectronic devices where the entire ceramic support structure and any conductive, resistive, and dielectric materials are fired in a kiln at the same time. Typical devices include capacitors, inductors, resistors, transformers, and hybrid circuits. The technology is also used for robust assembly and packaging of electronic components multi-layer packaging in the electronics industry, such as military electronics, MEMS, microprocessor and RF applications.

In electronics, a cross section, cross-section, or microsection, is a prepared electronics sample that allows analysis at a plane that cuts through the sample. It is a destructive technique requiring that a portion of the sample be cut or ground away to expose the internal plane for analysis. They are commonly prepared for research, manufacturing quality assurance, supplier conformity, and failure analysis. Printed wiring boards (PWBs) and electronic components and their solder joints are common cross sectioned samples. The features of interest to be analyzed in cross section can be nanometer-scale metal and dielectric layers in semiconductors up to macroscopic features such as the amount of solder that has filled into a large, 0.125in (3.18mm) diameter plated through hole.