CAMM gives shape to new ideas
This is where the future begins
The CAMM's specialized machinery allows for creation and testing of prototypes.
When Corning was ready to show the world what could be done with one of its latest innovations — flexible glass — it turned to Binghamton University for help.
Flexible glass has long been an ideal alternative to plastic in flexible electronics manufacturing because of its stability. It can be processed at high temperatures without distortion, resulting in better performance.
“Flexible glass is ideal for use as a substrate in display products such as mobile phones and tablets,” says Sean Garner, a Corning scientist.
Binghamton’s roll-to-roll research facility at the Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM) is helping Corning prove that. “Roll-to-roll processing is a ‘holy grail’ for display and other manufacturers, promising larger volumes at reduced costs,” Garner says.
Instead of making something in pieces, the CAMM can take a 1,000-foot roll of flexible substrate, such as plastic or flexible glass, unroll it, deposit circuitry and coatings on it, and roll it back up like a scroll. It allows for greater control and precision, says Peter Borgesen, professor of systems science and industrial engineering, and director of the CAMM.
As a rule, universities don’t build things; they provide the research that may lead to a product that someone else will build.
The CAMM is an exception. It was created in 2005 when what is now called the Flex Tech Alliance chose Binghamton in partnership with Endicott Interconnect (EI) and Cornell University to lead development of next-generation roll-to-roll electronics manufacturing capabilities. The CAMM opened in EI’s Endicott facility in 2008 as a place where researchers and companies can test ideas and create prototypes.
“When the CAMM was started, flexible glass was not available,” says Mark Poliks, research professor of chemistry and technical director of the CAMM. Now, Corning’s YouTube video called “A Day Made of Glass” shows how different kinds of glass, including flexible glass, might be integrated into everyday objects such as tabletops, appliances, walls and vehicles.
Plastic is still the substrate of choice for most flexible electronics. Imagine a computer screen that can be rolled up like a piece of paper or a solar panel that can be unrolled by a soldier in the field and used to generate electricity.
Work being done at the CAMM could help bring both to reality.
For the University’s Center for Autonomous Solar Power (CASP), the CAMM is indispensible. CASP is searching for a way to make thin-film solar cells — an existing technology — with nontoxic, Earth-abundant materials. Initial materials that look promising are at the CAMM for testing on a large-format, flexible substrate.
“We’re trying to make the thin-film solar cell for CASP one layer at a time and making sure that they have the same properties they had as small-scale prototypes,” Borgesen says. “It takes a long time to do things that sound pretty mundane.” But the potential market for lightweight solar panels that don’t use rare and expensive minerals is enormous, he says.
The work being done with Corning and CASP is representative of the endless opportunities at the CAMM. “We work with our partners, understand their challenges and help contribute solutions — from basic science and technology all the way to helping to create new opportunities for industry,” says Poliks, who is also director of research and development for EI.
“Samsung has sent people here from South Korea. They have a broad engineering scope, lots of technical resources, but it’s great to know they had to come to Binghamton University to do some of their work,” he says.