Applications for ECAs
ECAs are found in interconnects for flexible circuits, bonding and sealing for electronic components, electrical devices, and electro-optical systems, including LCDs or touchscreens on handheld devices. They are also used in EMC/EMI applications for shielding as liquids, tapes, or bond conductive gaskets. They can provide electrostatic discharge anti-static systems and grounding for interconnects.
ECA films and tapes, including PSAs and transfer tapes, can be used in handheld devices for communications and medical applications to provide EMI shielding and keep noise down between electronic components. New carbon-based PSAs provide good point-to-point conductivity while eliminating the high cost of silver fillers. Using graphite, electrically conductive adhesives, sealants, and coatings can be used in applications that require nonmagnetic properties.
In automotive applications, ECAs provide flexible interconnection between sensors and automotive monitoring systems and can withstand stress and temperature extremes.
Working with flexible conductive PSAs is ideal for thin and compact electro-medical devices. Strong, flexible bonding and good shielding performance help engineers design medical diagnostic devices that are reliable and safe using these adhesives. Liquid ECAs are often used to provide interconnection in diagnostic equipment from X-ray equipment to MRIs.
In solar panel manufacturing, ECAs are used in both liquid and PSA form. In rigid silicon, as cells become thinner, connection using solder becomes a less viable solution. Soldering at very thin cell dimensions of 160 or 120µms introduces stresses that can crack and damage fragile cells. ECAs are being looked to for conductivity, throughput, and flexibility to make thinner, larger solar cell modules a high-volume production reality. Back contact panel assembly is also being investigated as an area for ECA usage.
Electrically conductive PSAs are used in bus bars for thin-film PV modules. Electrical current generated in the module is conducted via thin metal strips called fingers. Electrically conductive bus bar tapes can transport the current from these fingers to a junction box. Flexible and easy to apply, these tapes can provide a cost-effective solar panel solution.
Working with an experienced materials supplier
An experienced supplier can help design engineers test materials and adhesives for a specific application. The supplier can investigate the appropriate ECA formulations that will work with the substrate, end use, and manufacturing process and then suggest a tape or liquid solution.
A supplier should offer full integration with the customer's engineering staff, including 2D and 3D CAD design capabilities, integration of the customer's electronic drawings, and rapid prototyping capabilities for thorough design vetting before manufacturing.
In addition, the supplier should be able to qualify materials and adhesives based on in-house laboratory testing for temperature resistance; performance at upper temperature limits; shear, tensile, and peel strength; outgassing; dielectric strength and electrical conductivity; thermal conductivity; and slitting widths and tolerances.
For pressure-sensitive and other tapes, the supplier must offer precision die cutting using rotary or laser technology, water jet cutting, and dieless cutting. In addition, precision slitting and rewinding, laminating, and printing are critical capabilities.
For liquids, a supplier must be able to provide packaging/repackaging to fit the customer's manufacturing process, including tubes, cartridges, cans, and bottles; single- and dual-component cartridges; custom blending of fluids, fillers, and solvents; and more.