Core Metallization and Imaging Take Center Stage


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By Meredith Courtemanche, assistant editor

MALBOROUGH, Mass. A metallization and imaging materials supplier recently divested their heavy copper filler range to redistribute resources into electroless and electrolytic copper, final finishes, and innerlayer bonding products. Rohm and Haas Electronic Materials transferred intellectual property (IP), along with its client network and product formulations, to Electra Polymers for liquid soldermask, legend ink, and etch-resist product lines. For details on the transaction, click here. The sale of these product lines did not include dry film soldermask (DFSM).

Rohm and Haas cited a change in the PCB market over the last several years as a reason for realigning their product range. Industry migration to low-cost Asian regions has created a need for PCB material suppliers to support customers in these locales, as well as North American and European companies. Rohm and Haas suggested that this move will help them better execute a global approach with metallization and imaging platforms, and will concentrate R & D, service capabilities and technology resources on these core lines.

The company stresses the importance of metallization product developments, such as those in electroless and electrolytic copper, as complementary to the evolution of technology and functionality in electronics. A circuit board technologies metallization team in the Electronics Materials division develops their products for reliable connectivity.

Environmentally prohibitive aspects of the electroless-copper processes include exposure to formaldehyde, high water consumption, and waste products containing chelaters, the Printed Wiring Board Resource Center (www.pwbrc.org) acknowledges. The organization finds that electroless copper lines contribute a significant percentage of overall waste volume for PCB manufacturers, and add cost for treatment or removal of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid- (EDTA) contaminated waste. Despite these concerns, a market-share study conducted by the Freedonia Group, in Cleveland, Ohio, found that electroless metallization processes are experiencing rapid growth. The study credits increased use of plastic substrates in the electronics sector for the rise.

Nanotechnology also proved to be a factor in Rohm and Haas's realignment, as they are introducing copper additives for sub-65-nm node memory and logic devices. The interconnect metallization levelers and suppressors were designed to flex existing copper platforms and provide adjustable dopant levels in ultra-pure copper films.

A new facility in Taiwan, set to open in Q'01 2007, reinforces the industry-wide interest in Asian business. Rohm and Haas earmarked $50 million for the Asia Pacific Manufacturing and Technical Center in Hsinchu Science Park, Chunan. The plant offers Rohm and Haas added capacity, and proximity to its customers. This also is their first major investment in Asia (outside of Japan) for chemical mechanical planarization (CMP). The facility will contain a sales and customer service office. The plant venture extends the company's investment in Asia beyond sales and service offices into immediate production capabilities for Asian customers in an applications laboratory.

Globally minded collaborations between Rohm and Haas and companies such as Dow Corning emphasize the global-footprint ideology of the company's restructuring plan. Vesting their interests in metallization may prove risky for Rohm and Haas with more environmental regulations predicted to follow in the footsteps of the RoHS Directive. However, if market indicators prove true, metallization technology will continue on an upswing, and may persuade more companies to shed specialized products in the interest of large market-share technologies with global appeal.

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