Coverlay Adhesive squeezeout on flexible circuits

What is Adhesive squeezeout?

Adhesive squeezeout is a common issue encountered in the manufacturing of flexible circuits, particularly during the coverlay lamination process. It refers to the undesired flow and accumulation of excess adhesive material along the edges or openings of the circuit, which can potentially lead to various problems affecting the performance and reliability of the final product.

Causes of Adhesive Squeezeout

Several factors contribute to the occurrence of adhesive squeezeout in flexible circuits:

  1. Excessive adhesive application: Applying too much adhesive during the lamination process can result in excess material being squeezed out from the intended bonding areas.
  2. Improper lamination pressure: Insufficient or uneven lamination pressure can cause the adhesive to flow unevenly, leading to squeezeout in certain areas.
  3. Incorrect adhesive viscosity: Using an adhesive with an unsuitable viscosity for the specific application can contribute to squeezeout issues. Low-viscosity adhesives are more prone to flowing and spreading beyond the desired areas.
  4. Inadequate circuit design: Poor design practices, such as insufficient spacing between conductive traces or inadequate clearance around openings, can exacerbate adhesive squeezeout.

Effects of Adhesive Squeezeout

Adhesive squeezeout can have several detrimental effects on flexible circuits:

  1. Electrical shorting: Excess adhesive can bridge the gap between adjacent conductive traces, causing electrical shorts and compromising the circuit’s functionality.
  2. Contamination: Squeezeout can introduce adhesive residue onto contact pads or other critical areas, interfering with proper electrical connections and leading to reliability issues.
  3. Reduced flexibility: Accumulated adhesive along the edges of the circuit can stiffen the flexible substrate, affecting its intended flexibility and mechanical properties.
  4. Aesthetic concerns: Visible adhesive squeezeout can detract from the overall appearance and quality perception of the flexible circuit.

Mitigating Adhesive Squeezeout

To minimize the occurrence and impact of adhesive squeezeout, several strategies can be employed:

Optimizing Adhesive Application

Proper control and optimization of the adhesive application process are crucial in reducing squeezeout:

  1. Adhesive quantity: Determine the optimal amount of adhesive required for effective bonding without excess. This can be achieved through careful calculation, experimentation, and process validation.
  2. Application method: Select an appropriate adhesive application method, such as screen printing, dispensing, or pre-cut adhesive films, that ensures precise and consistent adhesive placement.
  3. Adhesive pattern: Design the adhesive pattern to provide sufficient coverage while minimizing excess material near critical areas prone to squeezeout.

Lamination Process Control

Proper control of the lamination process parameters can help mitigate adhesive squeezeout:

  1. Lamination pressure: Apply the appropriate lamination pressure to ensure adequate bonding without forcing excess adhesive to flow out. Conduct trials to determine the optimal pressure settings for specific circuit designs and adhesive systems.
  2. Temperature profile: Optimize the lamination temperature profile to achieve the desired adhesive flow and cure without promoting excessive squeezeout. Consider factors such as adhesive type, substrate material, and circuit complexity.
  3. Lamination dwell time: Adjust the lamination dwell time to allow for sufficient adhesive flow and wetting while minimizing the time available for squeezeout to occur.

Circuit Design Considerations

Incorporating design best practices can help reduce the impact of adhesive squeezeout:

  1. Trace spacing: Maintain sufficient spacing between conductive traces to minimize the risk of bridging due to adhesive squeezeout. Follow the recommended design guidelines for the specific manufacturing process and adhesive system.
  2. Clearance around openings: Provide adequate clearance around openings, such as vias or component holes, to accommodate potential adhesive squeezeout without affecting electrical connections or component placement.
  3. Adhesive flow channels: Incorporate adhesive flow channels or relief patterns in the circuit design to provide space for excess adhesive to flow and accumulate without causing issues.

Material Selection

Choosing the right materials can contribute to reducing adhesive squeezeout:

  1. Adhesive type: Select an adhesive system with rheological properties suitable for the specific application. Consider factors such as viscosity, thixotropy, and flow behavior to minimize squeezeout tendencies.
  2. Substrate surface energy: Choose substrate materials or apply surface treatments that promote good adhesive wetting and bonding while reducing the likelihood of excessive flow and squeezeout.
  3. Coverlay material: Consider the compatibility and bonding characteristics of the coverlay material with the chosen adhesive system to ensure optimal adhesion and minimal squeezeout.

Inspection and Quality Control

Implementing robust inspection and quality control measures is essential to detect and address adhesive squeezeout issues:

Visual Inspection

Visual inspection is the first line of defense in identifying adhesive squeezeout:

  1. Microscopic examination: Use optical microscopy to visually examine the circuit for signs of adhesive squeezeout, particularly along the edges, openings, and critical areas.
  2. Automated optical inspection (AOI): Employ AOI systems to automatically detect and flag adhesive squeezeout based on predefined criteria and thresholds.

Electrical Testing

Electrical testing can help identify functional issues caused by adhesive squeezeout:

  1. Continuity testing: Perform continuity tests to detect any electrical shorts or open circuits resulting from adhesive bridging or contamination.
  2. Insulation resistance testing: Measure the insulation resistance between adjacent traces to ensure adequate electrical isolation and absence of adhesive-induced leakage paths.

Cross-Sectional Analysis

Cross-sectional analysis provides a detailed view of the adhesive distribution and squeezeout:

  1. Microsectioning: Prepare cross-sectional samples of the flexible circuit to examine the adhesive coverage, thickness, and squeezeout profile.
  2. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM): Utilize SEM imaging to obtain high-resolution images of the adhesive interface and squeezeout areas for detailed analysis.

Process Optimization and Control

Continuously monitoring, optimizing, and controlling the manufacturing process is crucial for minimizing adhesive squeezeout and maintaining consistent quality:

Statistical Process Control (SPC)

Implement SPC techniques to monitor and control critical process parameters:

  1. Control charts: Use control charts to track and analyze key variables, such as adhesive application weight, lamination pressure, and temperature, to ensure they remain within acceptable limits.
  2. Process capability analysis: Assess the process capability indices (Cp and Cpk) to determine the ability of the process to consistently produce circuits with minimal adhesive squeezeout.

Design of Experiments (DOE)

Conduct structured experiments to optimize the process parameters for minimizing adhesive squeezeout:

  1. Factor identification: Identify the critical factors that influence adhesive squeezeout, such as adhesive quantity, lamination pressure, temperature, and dwell time.
  2. Response measurement: Define the response variables to be measured, such as squeezeout distance, electrical functionality, and visual acceptability.
  3. Experimental design: Select an appropriate experimental design, such as factorial or response surface methodology, to systematically vary the factors and analyze their effects on the response variables.
  4. Optimization: Use the experimental results to determine the optimal combination of process parameters that minimize adhesive squeezeout while maintaining other desired characteristics.

Continuous Improvement

Foster a culture of continuous improvement to progressively reduce adhesive squeezeout and enhance overall process performance:

  1. Root cause analysis: Investigate the underlying causes of adhesive squeezeout incidents through techniques like fishbone diagrams or 5-why analysis to identify improvement opportunities.
  2. Operator training: Provide comprehensive training to operators on the proper handling, application, and control of adhesives to minimize human errors and inconsistencies.
  3. Best practice sharing: Encourage the sharing of best practices and lessons learned across different teams and departments to promote the adoption of effective squeezeout mitigation strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What is the impact of adhesive squeezeout on flexible circuit reliability?

Adhesive squeezeout can compromise the reliability of flexible circuits in several ways. It can cause electrical shorting between adjacent traces, leading to functional failures. Squeezeout can also contaminate contact pads or other critical areas, interfering with proper electrical connections and causing intermittent or long-term reliability issues.

2. How can I determine the optimal adhesive application method for my Flexible Circuit Design?

The optimal adhesive application method depends on factors such as circuit complexity, adhesive type, and production volume. For high-volume production and consistent adhesive distribution, screen printing or pre-cut adhesive films are often preferred. For low-volume or prototype builds, manual dispensing or brush application may be suitable. It’s important to evaluate different methods and conduct trials to determine the best approach for your specific requirements.

3. What are the recommended design guidelines for minimizing adhesive squeezeout?

To minimize adhesive squeezeout, consider the following design guidelines:

  • Maintain sufficient spacing between conductive traces, typically at least 0.5 mm or more, depending on the adhesive system and manufacturing process.
  • Provide adequate clearance around openings, such as vias or component holes, to accommodate potential squeezeout. A minimum clearance of 0.25 mm is often recommended.
  • Incorporate adhesive flow channels or relief patterns in the circuit design to provide space for excess adhesive to flow and accumulate without causing issues.
  • Follow the adhesive manufacturer’s recommendations for design parameters, such as minimum trace width and spacing.

4. How can I test for electrical shorts caused by adhesive squeezeout?

Electrical shorts caused by adhesive squeezeout can be detected through continuity testing and insulation resistance testing. Continuity testing involves checking for unintended electrical connections between adjacent traces or conductors. Insulation resistance testing measures the resistance between conductors to ensure adequate electrical isolation. These tests can be performed using dedicated test equipment or integrated into automated test systems for high-volume production.

5. What are some common challenges in implementing adhesive squeezeout mitigation strategies?

Implementing adhesive squeezeout mitigation strategies can present several challenges:

  • Balancing the need for sufficient adhesive coverage and bonding strength with the goal of minimizing squeezeout.
  • Accommodating design constraints and miniaturization requirements while maintaining adequate spacing and clearances.
  • Ensuring process consistency and control across different operators, shifts, and equipment.
  • Managing the trade-offs between adhesive performance, processability, and cost.
  • Validating the effectiveness of mitigation strategies through comprehensive testing and evaluation.

Overcoming these challenges requires a collaborative effort among design, process engineering, quality, and manufacturing teams to develop and implement robust solutions tailored to the specific needs of the flexible circuit application.


Adhesive squeezeout is a critical issue in the manufacturing of flexible circuits, particularly during the coverlay lamination process. It can lead to electrical shorting, contamination, reduced flexibility, and aesthetic concerns, compromising the performance and reliability of the final product.

To mitigate adhesive squeezeout, a comprehensive approach is necessary, involving optimized adhesive application, lamination process control, circuit design considerations, material selection, and robust inspection and quality control measures. Implementing statistical process control, conducting structured experiments, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement are essential for achieving consistent and reliable results.

By understanding the causes, effects, and mitigation strategies for adhesive squeezeout, manufacturers can enhance the quality and reliability of their flexible circuits, meeting the demanding requirements of various applications in industries such as consumer electronics, automotive, medical devices, and aerospace.

As technology advances and the demand for high-performance flexible circuits grows, it is crucial to stay updated with the latest best practices, materials, and processes for managing adhesive squeezeout. Collaboration among industry stakeholders, including material suppliers, equipment manufacturers, and end-users, will drive the development of innovative solutions and guidelines to address this critical challenge effectively.

Factor Effect on Adhesive Squeezeout
Excessive adhesive Increases squeezeout
Insufficient lamination pressure Increases squeezeout
Low adhesive viscosity Increases squeezeout
Inadequate trace spacing Increases risk of bridging
Proper adhesive quantity Reduces squeezeout
Optimal lamination pressure Reduces squeezeout
Appropriate adhesive viscosity Reduces squeezeout
Sufficient trace spacing Reduces risk of bridging

This table summarizes the key factors and their effects on adhesive squeezeout in flexible circuits. By understanding and controlling these factors, manufacturers can effectively mitigate squeezeout and improve the quality and reliability of their products.

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