07/31/2012, Irvine, CA

 

New Conductive Ink from Henkel Addresses Silver’s Rising Cost

 

Less Silver, Equal Performance

Over the past two years, the rise in silver prices has been unprecedented. In December of 2009, silver was hovering around $17.00 a troy ounce.  As of December 2011, silver’s price was approximately $35.00 per troy ounce – a nearly 100% increase in two years’ time.

For those of us in the electronics and photovoltaic markets, this has had a tremendous effect on production costs and, therefore, bottom line health.  

Because of its excellent conductivity performance and unique characteristics, silver is the one of the most widely used metals in the electronics industry. The precious metal is found in die attach formulations, solder pastes, conductive adhesives and conductive inks, just to name a few. In recent months, however, balancing price and performance has become a very challenging exercise. Fortunately, the materials experts at Henkel have recognized that alternatives are desperately needed, and have been developing comparable lower silver content formulations for some time.  Of course, not just any alternatives will do:  the materials have to perform equal to or better than their high-silver content counterparts while also delivering lower overall costs and excellent value.

Leveraging the knowledge of its expert development teams and global supply chain resources, Henkel has engineered several lower content silver formulations, the most recent of which is an electrically conductive ink well-suited for applications in a variety of market sectors.  The new ink has applicability to automotive, industrial, alternative energy (photovoltaics), RFID, displays and medical devices where current high-silver loaded materials are used. The conductive ink, ABLESTIK ECI-1001 has most recently found success with an automotive sensor application, where the customer was seeking a lower-cost alternative to a previous-generation Henkel conductive ink.  

By altering the morphology of the silver flake to deliver a larger surface area, ABLESTIK ECI-1001 is able to deliver equal performance to that of older-generation materials, while significantly reducing the total silver load. In fact, when compared to standard conductive inks, ABLESTIK ECI-1001 has approximately 35% silver by weight and traditional inks contain as much as 50% or more silver by weight. Consequently, the lower content silver ABLESTIK ECI-1001 material can be supplied at lower cost, while manufacturers can realize comparable performance to that of traditional conductive inks.

ABLESTIK ECI-1001 is a thermoplastic, silver-filled highly conductive ink that is ideal not only for automotive applications but for any product that incorporates polymer thick film circuits, membrane touch switches or flexible circuits. With a sheet resistivity of less than 30 m ohms/sq/mil and an excellent balance of flexibility, hardness and adhesion, ABLESTIK ECI-1001 delivers superior performance in a lower silver content formulation. The material is easily integrated into existing processes and equipment sets as it is applied via a standard screen printing process and is cured either through hot air drying or infrared light exposure.

What’s also notable about this material is that Henkel began development of ABLESTIK ECI-1001 as well as other silver alternatives (silver plated copper, for example) in early 2009, well before silver started its fast-paced cost escalation.   This speaks to Henkel’s forward-looking innovation philosophy -- one of the primary reasons that the company is the undisputed electronics materials leader worldwide. Henkel develops solutions before challenges even exist, and ABLESTIK ECI-1001 is just one more example of the company’s foresight.

For more information on ABLESTIK ECI-1001 or any of Henkel’s advanced electronic materials, log onto www.henkel.com/electronics or call 714-368-8000.