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FlexTech Alliance Funded Project with Etched in Time, Inc., Yields Key Manufacturing System for Producing Flexible, Printed Electronics

Oct 17, 2012

Commercialization of roll-to-roll plasma etch equipment is on course for applications in solar and lighting markets that utilize flexible substrates

FlexTech Alliance, focused on developing the flexible and printed electronics industry supply chains, announced the completion of a development project with Etched in Time, Inc. (EITI), for a plasma etch system that is compatible with a wide array of roll-to-roll equipment. The result of the project is a tool that can be used in the manufacture of a broad range of products including LED lighting or solar panels fabricated on plastic substrates.

The purpose of this FlexTech Alliance funded project was to create a plasma etching tool for dielectric films that offers a number of manufacturing advantages for flexible electronics. For example, plasma etching is cleaner than a wet etching manufacturing process due to the lack of chemicals to dispose after use. Additionally, incorporating the system into a roll-to-roll process allows large area and flexible products to be fabricated at low cost.

After the successful system development, the final step of the project was installation of the EITI plasma tool into the roll-to-roll flexible processing equipment at Binghamton University's Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM), where the follow-on work will take place of fine tuning processes with the new system for different materials.

The new tool has gained commercial traction since the project completion. For example, a joint venture has been established between EITI and the Solar Product Lab (SPL) at Arizona State University to build and install a demonstration tool to etch silicon nitride for solar cell production.

“Not only will this project refine the manufacturing process of printed, flexible electronics through the continued work at CAMM,” commented Michael Ciesinski, CEO of the FlexTech Alliance. “Etched in Time has also been very resourceful using the results of this project and their design and build expertise to adapt the technology for commercial markets.”

Additional applications of the tool include texturizing a silicon surface during the manufacture of solar cells fabricated with multi crystal silicon, a material currently in wide industry use.