Aerosol Jet Direct Writing Polymer-Thick-Film Resistors for Printed Electronics
Authors: James Q. Feng, Anthony Loveland, and Michael J. Renn Company: Optomec, Inc. Date Published: 9/22/2019
Abstract: Electronic designers nowadays are facing two challenging demands for various applications: miniaturization and increased functionality. To satisfy these seemingly opposed requirements, reducing the number of mounted components—and thus solder joints—in PCB designs becomes an attractive approach by directly printing passive components such as embedded resistors into the circuit. This approach can also potentially increase the reliability, such as “mean time between failures” (MTBF), while reducing the circuit board size. With its unique capabilities for non-contact precision material deposition, the Aerosol Jet® direct-write technology has been enabling additive manufacturing of fine-feature electronics conformally onto flexible substrates of complicated shapes. The CAD/CAM controlled relative motions between substrate and print head allows convenient adjustment of the pattern and pile height of deposited material at a given ink volumetric deposition rate. To date in the printed electronics industry, additively printing embedded polymer-thick-film (PTF) resistors has mostly been done with screen printing using carbon-based paste inks. Here we demonstrate results of Aerosol Jet® printed PTF resistors of resistance values ranging from ~50 O to > 1 kO, adjustable (among several variable parameters) by the number of stacked layers (or print passes with each pass depositing a fixed amount of ink) between contact pads of around 1 mm apart with footprint line typically < 0.3 mm. In principle, any ink material that can be atomized into fine droplets of 1 to 5 microns can be printed with the Aerosol Jet® system. However, the print quality such as line edge cleanliness can significantly influenced by ink rheology which involves solvent volatility, solids loading, and so on. Our atomizable carbon ink was made by simply diluting a screen printing paste with a compatible solvent of reasonable volatility, which can be cured at temperatures below 200 oC. We show that Aerosol Jet® printed overlapping lines can be stacked to large pile height (to reduce the resistance value) without significant increase of line width, which enables fabricating embedded resistors with adjustable resistance values in a limited footprint space.