Many new products related to thick-film base flexible circuits were introduced at the show.

Specifically, these products were screen-printed conductive inks featured by some Taiwanese companies as well as other mid-sized manufacturers., an online circuit distributer, displayed several advanced technologies. Their basic concepts are not new, but their technology bundles are very practical, and are currently in the market.

Progress continues with reducing the density of thick-film flexible circuits. Flex circuit manufacturers have volume production with 50µm fine lines and spaces, and soon will be giving way to 30µm lines and spaces or less. Conductive ink suppliers and screen mask manufacturers claim that 10µm lines are possible, while double-sided and multilayer circuits with small via holes on flexible substrates are becoming mainstream.

Thick-film circuit metallization is a hot topic for the industry. The idea was bounced around many years ago; but manufacturers were not successful in delivering a viable product. Fast forward to today and two companies displayed actual samples of metallized thick-film circuits at the show. Representatives manning the trade show booths claim the flexible circuits have significant conductor resistance compared with traditional thick-film circuits. The low conductivity from thick-film circuits was a considerable disadvantage and limited their applications. However, supplemental surface metallization of thick-film traces will significantly increase conductivity. To put a number on it, conductivity can be 10 times higher and even more depending on the metallization thickness.

Manufacturers did not point out a second advantage from metallization – the significant reduction of silver migration. Migration from silver conductors is always a problem for circuit designers. Metallization of silver conductors reduces the migration complications from thick-film conductors. FIGURE 1 shows the copper metallization of silver thick-film circuits.


Figure 1.

Another advantage from the thick film technology is the ability to generate conductive printed circuits on non-standard substrates such as polyimide films and PET films. The physical properties from traditional plastic films are adequate for electrical insulation materials. One disadvantage is the low moisture permeability from plastic films used with wearable devices. Everyday materials such as cloths and papers could be suitable for wearable devices; however, it is not easy to generate copper foil circuits if used as conductors. The thick-film circuit designed for two dimensional pressure sensor arrays is a good example. FIGURE 2 shows a wheelchair with a large sized sensor module built into a square fabric sheet.



The manufacturer of the sensor device confirmed that all of the construction was created using a screen-printing process.

Au: This is part three of my observations from the JPCA Show. To be continued.


Dominique K. Numakura, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

DKN Research,

DKN Research Newsletter #1920, July 21, 2019 (English Edition) (Micro Electronics & Packaging)

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Headlines of the Week

1. Toshiba (Major electric & electronic company in Japan) successfully achieved 23.5% conversion rate with the next generation photovoltaic cells of transparent copper oxide with tandem constructions.

2. AIST (Major R&D organization in Japan) co-developed a new electrolyte for zinc/air secondary battery. It is capable to extend the life significantly.

3. Faurecia Clarion (Major car module manufacturer in Japan) has been developing new car audio systems with attractive interiors that reduce the size and weight to one-fifth.

4. JAE (Major connector manufacturer in Japan) rolled out an SMT type board-to-board connector series “AC01 Series” for industrial uses. 0.5mm pitch, 2.5mm high, 50, 60, 80 and 100 pins.

5. Sony (Major electronics company in Japan) released small-sized CMOS image sensors, “IMX415” and “IMX485” with LGA ceramic package (12.0 x 9.3mm) for security camera systems. They are compatible with 4K display in security systems.

6. JR East Japan (Major railway company in Japan) successfully completed trial runs of an autonomous driving bus. The new bus service system will be valuable as the transportation network in rural areas.

7. Fujikura (Major cable company in Japan) developed superconductor wires and started volume production as the magnet wire for the MRI equipment. 400A/mm2 current density was achieved at 30K.

8. Denso (Major automobile device manufacturer in Japan) agreed to build a JV with Toyota to develop semiconductor devices for automobiles. The new company will start operation in April 2020 with 500 employees.

9. Murata (Major component supplier in Japan) commercialized the world's smallest SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave) device for smartphones. Size: 0.9 x 0.7mm.

10. Kyocera (Major electronics company in Japan) opened an R&D center in Minato-Mirai of Yokohama with 7800 sq. meter floor space to develop the technologies of IoT, AI, robotics and auto driving. A 200 sq. meter Creative Fab will be attached for trials and tests. 11. IMV (MEMS device manufacturer in Japan) unveiled a vibration sensor “VP-8021A” produced by MEMS process. It is less expensive compared to the traditional piezo type sensors.

12. Tokin (Major device manufacturer in Japan) rolled out a polymer tantalum capacitor series “T598” for the super computing of automobile applications. Higher volume efficiencies, longer life.

Register now for PCB West, the leading conference and exhibition for printed circuit board design! Coming Sept. 9-12 to the Santa Clara Convention Center.

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