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R2R: jet selective metallization for industrial level production

JetMetal Technologies has developed a novel process which is able to spray jet metallize surfaces with select area control. In this technique, two water-based components are sprayed onto a surface and via a redox process under atmospheric temperature and pressure conditions a thin layer of pure metal (in this case mainly Ag) is formed. The thickness can range from 10nm to 5um but is most typically a few hundred nanometers.

This process is thus a bridge between high-throughput painting process and thin and controlled plating deposition. The formed lines are close to pure Ag, and thus offer high conductivity. Indeed, JetMetal Technologies suggests that they can reach 85-90% of bulk Ag conductivity on a smooth PET substrate when the sprayed coating is 500nm thick.

Both the thinness and high conductivity are clearly differentiated from traditional particle-based pastes and inks because such traditional inks are typically 20-30% bulk Ag conductivity when applied on low-T PET substrates. Furthermore, with the exception of inkjet or particle-free inks, the printed thickness levels are typically in the few micrometer ranges.

A challenge for any spraying or jetting process is the ability to achieve selective area metallization. JetMetal has developed a hybrid process in which a dielectric ink is first printed (Screen, inkjet, gravure, etc) to act as a mask. The jet metallization then applies the Ag, metallising the exposed parts and (this is crucial) removing the masking ink at the same time. Therefore, no lift-off or similar process will be required. As shown in the slides below, JetMetal has a S2S screen printing machine in-house (400x400mm with >50um resolution) as well as a R2R pilot jet metallization line (400m width, <3m/min web speed).

Multiple applications are showcased in the slides.

  • RF Antenna: a thin and highly smooth (Sa<20nm) layer is deposited achieving 90% bulk Ag conductivity with >50um resolution. The properties are shown in the slide

  • PI based heater with with 50nm homogeneous Ag layer

  • A metal mesh with 150nm linewidth and >90% aperture acting as a semi transparent thin film heater

  • a thermoformed 3D circuit with <1000% elongation. This is interesting because in their case they elongate the masking ink first and then metallize the 3D shape using the jetting process. Thus, the elongation of particle-filled conductive inks will not be the limiting factor

JetMetal Technologies will be exhibiting at TechBlick's Innovations Festival (24 June 2022 | FREE | Online). Sign up now here to join us


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