The effect of ultrasonic additive manufacturing on integrated printed electronic conductors

Ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM) is a low temperature manufacturing method capable of embedding printed electronics in metal components. The effect of UAM processing on the resistivity of conductive tracks printed with five different conductive pastes based on silver, copper or carbon flakes/particles in either a thermoplastic or thermoset filler binder are investigated. For all but the carbon-based paste, the resistivity changed linearly with the UAM energy input. After UAM processing, a resistivity increase of more than 150 times was recorded for the copper based thermoset paste. The silver based pastes showed a resistivity increase of between 1.1 and 50 times from their initial values. The carbon-based paste showed no change in resistivity after UAM processing. Focussed Ion Beam (FIB) microstructure analysis of the printed conductive tracks before and after UAM processing showed that the silver particles and flakes in at least one of the pastes partly dislodged from their thermoset filler creating voids, thereby increasing the resistivity, whereas the silver flakes in a thermoplastic filler did not dislodge due to material flow of the polymer binder. The lowest resistivity (8·10-5 Ω-cm) after UAM processing was achieved for a thermoplastic paste with silver flakes at low UAM processing energy.