Developing of technology cluster for flexible printed electronics
A modern hi-tech hardware and software platform for express prototyping and production of innovative microengineering products is a cluster for flexible printed electronics.
As previously stated , a term "flexible electronics" (polymeric, printed) reflects two principal constituent of this direction. First, the material science basis – the design-material specific peculiarity of substrates, switching-isolation systems and functional elements. Secondly, technological basis – a complex of methods for formation of the functional elements and switching-isolation systems, based on the roll screen and (or) inkjet printing technology.
Concept of the technologic cluster for flexible printed electronics
For formation of hi-tech hardware and software platform of micro- and nanotech production based on technology of flexible electronics and photonics, is necessary to solve the following problems :
•to develop modern technological base of micro- and nanotech production with preferred orientation to the usage of packageless components, 3D-integration of elements and flexible inkjet printing technology;
•to master process flow, implemented on the basis of flexible infrastructural organization of wide range of high automated technology modules, providing dynamic changeover and fast operations adaptation;
•to exercise express prototyping and launch manufacturing of a wide range of new generation products with formerly unattainable mass, overall dimensions, energy and technical features combined with minimizing of expenses. The latter is achieved by means of implementing new design methods under the conditions of high automation equipment and increasing the role of intellectual aspect of human factor at the preproduction stage.
It is reasonable to orient the technology clusters for flexible printed electronics on the manufacture of such products, as subminiature electronic modules, including integrated ones with sensors and systems for the gathering and transmission of information (including personal and objects identification), miniature stand-alone systems for the navigation and localization, micro analytical lab-on-a-chip devices of the matrix and capillary types for biomedical and technical inspection of a bio-technosphere, highly integrated smart multifunctional clothes, including with epidermal and (or) intra-distributed sensors, distributed, flexible and other miniature energy sources including recuperative heat exchangers, micro-robotics means ground- and air-based.
Most in demand products of the flexible electronics and photonics are hybrid microdevices, that integrate sensory and executive microsystems with infocommunication-chips for data gathering, processing and transmission (for example, navigation or biomedical modules). Upcoming trends should be recognized microrobotics, smart clothes and lab-on-a-chip devices. It is quite efficient to use technology of flexible electronics and photonics for the production of optical radiators and converters at a flexible substrate, as well as on organic and nonorganic flexible accumulators. Of great interest is development of special textile technologies using micro- and nanofibers with varied physical and chemical, thermo physical, electrical, optical and biological properties.
Basic trends in design of a new generation products should be recognized reduction of mass and overall dimensions, power consumption reduction and standalone operation time increment, increasing resistance to external influences, as well as variability of design for rapid adaptation of products in the course of production and usage. Selection of processing equipment configuration for development of technological cluster for flexible printed electronics is determined by the capability of producing a wide class of products according to unified primary process flow.
Analysis of technological operations and solutions, used in the production of flexible electronics and photonics, has allowed formulating a range of prescriptions regarding to technology option :
Analysis of process steps and solutions used in the manufacture of flexible electronics and photonics, allowed us to formulate a set of recommendations on the choice of technology :
•The most flexible technology in relation to topologic localization and composition of the deposited material is a inkjet printing, providing micron resolution;
•formation of 3D structures with sufficiently high resolution is provided by laser stereolithography;
•highest speed of formation of the complex switching on a surface of 2D- and 3D-objects is provided by laser conversion (modification) of the metal-contained polymeric substrate.
Technology cluster for flexible printed electronics in St. Petersburg
For the purpose of efficient use of scientific, technological and HR capacities of the Saint-Petersburg State Electrotechnical University (LETI) on its the basis there was founded "Interuniversity center of prototyping and contract manufacturing of micro- and nanoengineering" (MCKP)  in 2011. The Center is specialized in technology of flexible electronics and has obtained from the foreign equipment manufacturers the right to represent their interests in Russia. In particular, the MCKP is an official distributor of Roth&Rau, Amicra and Asyril companies (see flap of the cover page).
Amicra produces equipment for a modern micro manufacture. There should be noted the systems for chipping, which allow applying innovation technologies of 3D-assembling, flip chip technic, systems for application of "ink" on a substrate.
Roth&Rau produces processing equipment for coating, including coating with using of inkjet printing.
Asyril designs and produces mechatronic micro devices for automation in the field of micro- and nanoengineering, biotechnology and medicine. The Company proposes compact high-performance systems of assembly and package.
In 2013 LETI established a joint research laboratory with a Finnish Beneq Company – one of the leading manufacturers of industrial and research equipment for the coatings by atomic and molecular assembly and aerosol technologies. Beneq innovations in the field of thin-film production – systems of atomic layer deposition (Roll-to-Roll) and high-performance aerosol application of coatings (nAERO) allowed attract investments of Rosnano for the developing of the given technologies in Russia.
Despite the lack in Russia both systematic R&D in the field of flexible printed electronics and Russian processing equipment for above-mentioned purposes, the LETI and MCKP team developed technology cluster for flexible printed electronics, which elements pass an approbation on the base of Microengineering and Diagnostic Center of LETI.
It is assumed, that LETI will implement product engineering, technology planning, working out technological operations and training of staff. MCKP, as the Center on prototyping and contract manufacturing, shall provide equipment supply and commissioning, software installation, development technological operations and processing flow at customer’s place, equipment warranty service, as well as support of the hardware-software complex.
The key features of the project of the technology cluster for flexible printed electronics in the LETI:
•main materials for new generation products will nanocomposites (consumables for inkjet printing of conductive elements of the switching systems, micro antennas, nonvolatile radio identifiers, metal-polymeric power supply devices) with carbonic, metallic, semiconducting and magnetic nanoparticles;
•processes of synthesis and shaping of materials will be realized by atomic layer deposition, removal and modification (use of printing technologies for producing of nano-layer compositions for flexible radiating elements, light-sensitive devices and power supply devices);
•positioning of Electronic Component Base in assembly operations with micro- and nanoscaled accuracy (development of subminiature highly-integrated systems on the basis of hardware components of photonics and integral optics with high precision positioning of objects in the assembly).