Improved Stretchable Electronics Technology for Large Area Applications

  • Bossuyt F
  • Verwust T
  • Axisa F
 et al. 
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A novel technology for stretchable electronics is presented which
can be used for the realization of wearable textile electronics and
biomedical implants. It consists of rigid or flexible component islands
interconnected with stretchable meander-shaped copper conductors
embedded in a stretchable polymer, e.g. PDMS. The technology uses
standard PCB manufacturing steps and liquid injection molding techniques
to achieve a robust and reliable product. Due to the stretchable
feature of the device, conductors and component islands should be
able to withstand a certain degree of stress to guarantee the functionality
of the system. Although the copper conductors are meander-shaped
in order to minimize the local plastic strain, the lifetime of the
system is still limited by the occurrence of crack propagation through
the copper, compromising the connectivity between the functional
islands. In order to improve the lifetime of the conductors, the
most important feature of the presented technology is the use of
spin-on polyimide as a mechanical support for the stretchable interconnections
and the functional flexible islands. In this way, every stretchable
copper connection is supported by a 20μm layer of polyimide being
shaped in the same manner as the above laying conductor. The grouped
SMD components and straight copper tracks on the functional islands
are also supported by a complete 20 μm polyimide layer. By use of
the polyimide, the reliability of the stretchable interconnections,
the straight interconnections on the flexible islands and the transitions
between the stretchable and non-stretchable parts is improved. This
approach results in a significant increase of the lifetime of the
stretchable interconnections as it is doubled. In this contribution,
the different process steps and materials of the technology will
be highlighted. Initial reliability results will be discussed and
the realization of some functional demonstrators containing a whole
range of different components will further illustrate the feasibility
of this technology. The advantages and disadvantages in terms of
processability, cost and mechanical strength of the photo-definable
polyimide will be covered.

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  • Frederick Bossuyt

  • Thomas Verwust

  • Fabrice Axisa

  • Jan Vanfleteren

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