Representatives from General Electric, Kodak, Philips, Rohm and Haas, Corning and Panasonic were on campus January 18 to learn more about Binghamton University’s new Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM).
The facility will be the first in the world to explore the feasibility of roll-to-roll electronics manfacturing, a shift that promises to change the world of consumer electronics by helping to drive down prices and significantly expanding the scope of commercial products and applications.
At the Jan. 18 organizational meeting center Director Bahgat Sammakia discussed the center’s vision for ubiquitous electronics. The CAMM, he said, “will create and enable new electronics applications and devices that improve the way people live and interact with their surroundings.” The center, envisioned as a unique partnership of academia, government and private sector, was launched a year ago with $10 million in equipment and funding from the U.S. Display Consortium (USDC). Partnering with Endicott Interconnect Technologies and Cornell University, the center will focus on demonstrating the feasibility of roll-to-roll electronics manufacturing by acquiring prototype tools and establishing processes capable of producing low-volume test bed products. To date, most advanced electronics components have been produced on silicon or quartz wafers, or on plates of specialized glass in a “batch” process that has been the backbone of the integrated circuit and flat panel display industries. The roll-to-roll – or R2R – continuous web process means that some components can be produced more efficiently, at higher yields and at a lower cost.
“This will be the first facility in the country to do this for roll to roll. As such, it will generate many funding opportunities for our faculty and industrial researchers,” said Mary Beth Curtin, director of federal relations and public affairs.
R2R could lead to cheaper versions of existing products as well as new products ranging from “smart” fabrics to larger and less expensive displays. It also has a broad range of applications in areas such as medical devices and military and homeland security.
There are certainly challenges ahead when it comes to R2R, Curtin acknowledged, but companies involved in the CAMM will benefit by pooling their resources to meet them.
“That’s what’s exciting,” she said. “The companies are coming together to do this fundamental research that will benefit all of them.”
CAMM Technical Director Mark Poliks, a research associate professor of chemistry, agreed. “Electronics research is very expensive these days and it’s very competitive in the industry,” he said, noting that foreign companies are challenging American ones. “This is a good opportunity for the U.S. to focus its efforts here at the CAMM and share the expense so that no one company has to take the risk of investment alone. ”
Participants at last week’s meeting included Endicott Interconnect Technologies, General Electric, Kodak, Philips, Rohm and Haas, Corning, Panasonic, Cornell University, the Arizona State University Flexible Display Center, USDC, the Army Research Lab and the Infotonics Technology Center. “Endicott Interconnect is very happy to be part of this,” said Poliks, who is also senior advisory technologist and manager with the company. “It gives us an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research and to partner with other companies in New York State and beyond.”
The meeting allowed partners to participate in the early stages of the CAMM’s development and provide valuable input into the strategic planning process. The day focused on forming an Executive Advisory Board as well as a Technical Advisory Board and developing committees that will address business and technical planning, intellectual property strategy and funding strategies.
The meeting also addressed the requirements for full partners and participating members in the CAMM. It’s expected that there will be eight full partners and 12 to 15 participating members. Members will provide some funding and reap rewards through access to research, the CAMM’s equipment and test beds.
Participants also learned about plans for the CAMM’s facilities. Endicott Interconnect has allocated space in one of the newest buildings on the Huron Campus in Endicott, inside a former IBM Corp. research and development site. Poliks noted the space has features rarely found on a university campus.
“Part of the concept here is: ‘Can we make electronics like they print newspapers?’” he said. And that requires large equipment and a large facility.
Next steps for the CAMM include developing a strategic plan and seeking federal and state funding for research as well as to educate and train the next generation of researchers, technicians and workers. CAMM officials will also be working to secure money for economic development and outreach efforts.
“It really is a nice opportunity for our faculty and for Cornell’s faculty to come together and work on research projects in this area,” Curtin said.
The center should attract millions of dollars in federal and state research grants and have a positive impact on the growth of existing New York companies. Projected annual expenditures are estimated between $5 million and $8 million after the first five years.
“We are excited about the opportunities that this new center affords our region, state and nation in the area of manufacturing flexible electronics in a roll-to-roll environment,” Sammakia said. “We are pleased with the active participation from our attendees. Strong member participation will ensure the success of the center.”