Flexible electronics represent an emerging area in the electronics packaging and systems integration industry with the potential for new product development and commercialization in the near future. Manufacturing electronics on flexible substrates will produce low cost devices that are rugged, light, and flexible. However, electronic systems are vulnerable to failures caused by mechanical and thermal stresses. For electronic systems on flexible substrates repeated stresses below the ultimate tensile strength or even below the yield strength will cause failures in the thin films. It is known that mechanical properties of thin films are different from those of bulk materials; so, it is difficult to extrapolate bulk material properties on thin film materials. The objective of this work is to study the behavior of thin-film metal coated flexible substrates under high cyclic bending fatigue loading. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) are widely used substrates in the fabrication of microelectronic devices. Factors affecting the fatigue life of thin-film coated flexible substrates were studied, including thin film thickness, temperature, and humidity. A series of experiments for sputter-deposited copper on PET substrates were performed. Electrical resistance and crack growth rate were monitored during the experiments at specified time intervals. High magnification images were obtained to observe the crack initiation and propagation in the metal film. Statistical analysis based on design of experiments concepts was performed to identify the main factors and factor’s interaction that affect the life of a thin-film coated substrate. The results of the experiments showed that the crack starts in the middle of the sample and slowly grows toward the edges. Electrical resistance increases slightly during the test until the crack length covers about 90% of the total width of the sample where a dramatic increase in the resistance takes place.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.