3.1.13 Electronics Industry

Electronic devices are everywhere. They are the computing workhorses in our offices, factories and cars; the entertainment devices in our homes; and the portable communication tools in our pockets. The latest high-tech gadgets would not exist without electronics for diagnostics, data crunching and control. Today’s electronic circuits are housed in ever-shrinking packages and engineered to withstand challenging environmental conditions – from underwater labs to space stations, and from sterile operating rooms to battered weather stations. Today’s devices can withstand all of this while meeting rigid performance requirements and regulatory mandates. Although a suitable design, installation and use of the circuitry are no doubt critical to how a device performs, the assembly and packaging of the electronics are just as important – especially if they are required to work under stressful operating conditions. Engineers are increasingly turning to adhesives over traditional soldering and joining methods to meet these design challenges.

As electronic circuits become increasingly complex, engineers find new ways to assemble and package them. Advances such as flip-chip assemblies, system-in-a-package (SiP) designs (where chips and other components are stacked on top of one another) and ultrafine-pitch electronics allow engineers to cram more computing power in smaller devices. In turn, this presents a new set of challenges that conventional manufacturing techniques cannot address. Shorter leads and interconnects increase the likelihood of thermal damage to temperature-sensitive components from the soldering process; some temperature-sensitive components must be manually assembled after soldering to avoid damage, increasing manufacturing time and cost. Ultrafine-pitch technology, packing electronics into closer quarters, can make soldering more complex and produce unreliable results, which increases the need for shielding sensitive components. All these new challenges create a need that adhesives can fulfil.

Environmental concerns pose another set of problems. Some printed-circuit assemblies must undergo post-assembly cleaning with harsh agents that can break down solder bonds. Exposure to extreme temperatures can damage bonds between components with different coefficients of thermal expansion. Excessive shock or vibration may weaken lead-free solder bonds, which are more brittle than traditional solder joints. To address these challenges, engineers turn to environmentally friendly adhesives that offer high bond strength, are electrically conductive and meet other stringent performance requirements. In this way, adhesives offer environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional materials.

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