Advantech U.S., Inc. offers a new approach to adding electronics into your products –even the ones you never thought of. Additive manufacturing enables the integration of electronics into products that were previously not suited for embedded electronics. Advantech U.S., Inc. is using a revolutionary additive manufacturing technology to produce embedded electronic devices, circuits and systems.

These devices and circuits are manufactured using thin film deposition through precision shadow masks. Devices and circuits are built layer by layer, depositing patterned thin films of different functional materials onto the substrate and previously patterned device structures.

The manufacturing process is suited for a wide variety of substrates, such as rigid and flexible display grade glass, rigid and flexible plastic films, ceramics, metals, semiconductor wafers, metal foils, printed circuit board materials. Advantech’s process can build complete device and circuit layers on bare substrates or add embedded electronics on pre-patterned substrates. Electronic components can be embedded into traces on traditionally manufactured printed circuit boards, interposers and chip carriers.

Advantech U.S., Inc. is Bridging the Gap

The integrated circuit (IC) industry patterns structures that typically are smaller than 1µm. Integrated circuit process technology requires mostly single crystal semiconductor substrates, extensive capital investment in process systems and infrastructure, such as high purity cleanrooms and chemistry. Devices and circuits are built in time and labor intensive manufacturing processes, such as photolithography, diffusion, ion implantation, thermal anneals, wet chemical etching, etc. The production sequence for today’s integrated circuits often spans over several shifts or several days. Multiple individual integrated circuits, often referred to as “chips”, are simultaneously patterned on a wafer that need to be separated by a dicing step. Testing and packaging of the end products requires expensive automated equipment, dedicated to each specific circuit build.

The printed circuit board (PCB) industry deals with trace and via patterns that typically exceed 50µm (2mil) in size and spacing. Traces are laminated metal conductors on circuit board substrates that are patterned using photolithography and wet chemical etch processes. The traces form electrical connections between solder pads for through hole or surface mount electronic components. Most modern printed circuit boards have multiple layers that are connected by vias. The outer PCB layers provide solder pads for discrete components, inner layers typically only provide electrical connections between vias to the outer layers or other inner PCB layers.

Embedded components on PCBs are a novel concept.

One approach places soldered discrete components on an inner PCB layer and requires routing out the adjacent layers to create a void for the embedded component in the volume of the circuit board after lamination of the board layers. This approach is only suitable for small volume components and prone to yield problems in the lamination process.

Alternatively, embedded resistors are patterned with a resistive film laminate that requires additional photolithography and wet chemical etching steps. Many customers are still concerned with yield, stability and reliability issues of such components.

Advantech’s additive manufacturing process for embedded electronics bridges the dimensional gap between the integrated circuit (IC) process landscape and the printed circuit board (PCB) world. Advantech’s shadow masks have typical aperture patterns sized between 5µm and 100µm with similar spacing (5µm or more) between the mask apertures. Larger features, such as long additively manufactured traces up to 914.4mm (36inch) length, are created using multiple masked depositions sequentially. Advantech’s AMEE process fills a critical feature size gap that neither the integrated circuits industry nor the printed circuit board industry are able to address with their lithography and wet chemistry based process technologies.

Additive Manufacturing of Passive and Active Components, Circuits and Systems

Advantech’s additive manufacturing process for embedded electronics (AMEE) allows the patterning of entire circuit layers with passive and active components. Alternatively, Advantech’s AMEE process can deposit components on pre-patterned substrates. A typical example is the manufacture of embedded thin film resistors and capacitors in gaps in traditional copper clad traces on printed circuit boards. The PCB traces and gaps are patterned using traditional printed circuit board processes. Advantech’s AMEE technology enables the deposition of embedded components across these gaps.

Advantech U.S., Inc. has extensive expertise in additive manufacturing of embedded electronic devices, circuits and systems.

The integration of thin film deposition and shadow mask technology is far from trivial. We encourage customers to discuss their electronics manufacturing needs with our experts.

Advantech U.S. areas of expertise include

Electronic device design review

  • Manufacturability of a device and circuit layout using additive electronics technology

Device materials optimization

  • Selection of device layer materials with suitable properties to assure device performance and manufacturability

Substrate selection

  • Selection of substrate material to assure device performance and manufacturability

Device thin film sequence optimization

  • Selection of device layer materials
  • Optimization of device layer interfaces
  • Compatibility of device layer materials, substrate, pre-patterned structures

Shadow mask design

  • Conversion of device design to shadow mask set for the device layer sequence
  • Conversion of shadow mask set CAD drawings into Gerber data for direct write mask mandrel production

Shadow mask manufacturing

  • Mask mandrel production
  • Mask electroforming process

Shadow mask mounting

  • Mask metrology and quality assurance
  • Mask mounting to mask carrier frame
  • Mask preparation and cleaning

Deposition process specifications and optimization

  • Selection of deposition material(s)
  • Selection of deposition method (thermal, e-beam, sputter deposition)
  • Specification of pre-deposition processing (sputter or plasma cleaning)
  • Specification of deposition process parameters

Deposition process

  • In-situ process control
  • Layer-by-layer deposition of the device structure

In-situ device and circuit testing

  • Measurements of process and layer properties during the individual deposition steps (as applicable)

Ex-situ device and circuit testing, verification and quality assurance

  • Measurements of layer and layer sequence properties after completion of the device build
  • Measurement of device and circuit properties (conductivity, resistance, capacitance, CIV, thermal, etc.)

Embedded electronics custom manufacturing

  • Contract manufacturing of customer device and circuit designs

Design of deposition technology and equipment for integration at a customer’s manufacturing site

  • Transfer of proven device or circuit manufacturing process into existing customer production line
  • Development of new production equipment for customer device or circuit products in collaboration with Advantech’s system solutions partners