Averatek Corporation

Averatek Corporation is a high tech company based in Santa Clara, CA that provides custom design services and patterned circuit board materials manufactured through the use of an innovative, proprietary process.

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Surface Treatment Enabling Low Temperature Soldering to Aluminum

Jul 29, 2020 | Divyakant Kadiwala

TThe majority of flexible circuits are made by patterning copper metal that is laminated to a flexible substrate, which is usually polyimide film of varying thickness. An increasingly popular method to meet the need for lower cost circuitry is the use of aluminum on Polyester (Al-PET) substrates. This material is gaining popularity and has found wide use in RFID tags, low cost LED lighting and other single-layer circuits. However, both aluminum and PET have their own constraints and require special processing to make finished circuits. Aluminum is not easy to solder components to at low temperatures and PET cannot withstand high temperatures. Soldering to these materials requires either an additional surface treatment or the use of conductive epoxy to attach components. Surface treatment of aluminum includes the likes of Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold plating (ENIG), which is extensive wet-chemistry and cost-prohibitive for mass adoption. Conductive adhesives, including Anisotropic Conductive Paste (ACP), are another alternate to soldering components. These result in component substrate interfaces that are inferior to conventional solders in terms of performance and reliability. An advanced surface treatment technology will be presented that addresses all these constraints. Once applied on Aluminum surfaces using conventional printing techniques such as screen, stencil, etc., it is cured thermally in a convection oven at low temperatures. This surface treatment is non-conductive. To attach a component, a solder bump on the component or solder printed on the treated pad is needed before placing the component. The Aluminum circuit will pass through a reflow oven, as is commonly done in PCB manufacturing. This allows for the formation of a true metal to metal bond between the solder and the aluminum on the pads. This process paves the way for large scale, low cost manufacturing of Al-PET circuits. We will also discuss details of the process used to make functional aluminum circuits, study the resultant solder-aluminum bond, shear results and SEM/ EDS analysis....

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