Electrically conductive adhesives set to impact the electronics industry
Market research details technology of ECAs, a form of conductive joining technology
Electrically conductive adhesives (ECAs) are a growing competitor to lead-free solders and silver sintering technologies, and are currently seeing use in several electronics applications, such as automotive electronics, consumer electronics, and display applications, according to market research conducted by IDTechEx.
Electrically conductive adhesives ECAs are formed from a conductive filler material and a structural resin material. The conductive filler, typically a metal powder, creates a conductive bridge across a join. Meanwhile, the structural polymer resin holds the join together, and the filler particles in place. The report identifies common filler materials choices, including silver, nickel, and gold, and discusses the merits of each for use in ECAs. Additionally, common polymer resin materials, including epoxy, silicone, and acrylics, are also highlighted in this report.
In addition to these traditional ECAs, IDTechEx has identified several critical developments in ECA production, new products and technologies which may grow to transform the market.
An example of one of the key benefits of ECAs is the low processing temperature; much lower than alternative choices, such as solders. This allows ECAs to be used with a wider range of substrate materials, including temperate-sensitive polymer substrates. This makes ECAs a good choice of conductive joining technology for flexible electronics applications. However, ECAs are not without their drawbacks. A key disadvantage is the high cost of raw materials required. This has impeded their widespread adoption in several applications – when other joining techniques can be used with the same effect, ECAs benefits may not outweigh the cost.
Great opportunities for ECAs
Key application areas for ECAs are divided into current technologies, which provide very large markets for this technology, and emerging technologies, which have smaller markets, but a lot more potential for growth. Examples of existing application sectors are in automotive and consumer electronics, as well as RFID and display applications. Examples of more emerging technologies which present great opportunities for ECAs are flexible, printed, and wearable electronics. Currently, ECAs may find use in products anywhere in our daily lives, from computer screens to phone circuit boards, and in the future, this may grow to encompass solar cells and even our clothes through wearable technologies.
The report also breaks down the implementation process for ECAs into its key stages and discusses the main considerations for each stage, such as different application techniques, and the importance of thermally curing an adhesive. The IDTechEx report considers both isotropically conductive adhesives (ICAs) and anisotropically conductive adhesives (ACAs), analyzing them from both a technical and commercial point of view. The potential application areas for each type of adhesive are considered independently, as well as the difference in growth potentials, and future projections for these technologies.
With the potential to impact a wide range of emerging industries, ECAs could become a critical technology in the future, and preparation for their more widespread adoption may be key.