Scientific imaging arrays need to have their individual imaging elements arranged in a close-spaced mosaic. The typical single imaging element is a silicon chip mounted on a larger support frame. This excess area of the support frame takes away valuable imaging space from the mosaic. This appears as a grid of black (no data) in the overall mosaic image. Making the support frame smaller makes the amount of lost data smaller, and the imaging elements can be spaced more closely together. Eliminating the support frame altogether brings the imaging elements even closer. This is referred to as four-side buttable.

Wire bonds in tilted planes have been applied to this four-side buttable CCD imager package. Here the wire bonds connect to flex cables to operate the CCD. This package also allows for in-situ tip and tilt adjustment with three kinematic bearing screws.
Because the support frame provides mechanical support for the electrical connections to the detector’s wire-bond pads, removing it requires rerouting each wire bond inboard. The problem is producing wire bonds under these new geometric constraints.

In the case of a backside-illuminated imager, one way is to wire bond to receiving pads located on the inclined walls of a central support structure. The degree of inclination, in this case, is chosen to permit a line of sight to the detector’s bond pads. Typical wire bonding stations allow observation of the pads through a microscope that has a line of sight fixed at 30° from vertical. While respecting this observational constraint, it is possible to make a wire bond going from the device’s pads up to the receiving pad by rotating the part 60° between the two bondings. The fixture to rotate the part has to do so smoothly without breaking the fine wire at the wire bonder’s capillary, or pulling the wire out of its firstbond position. This limit of motion is about 100 microns.

In general, any degree of inclination could be accommodated, provided there is a means to see the bond pads when they are rotated into position. Also, physical access of the wire-bonding tip to the pad is required. Key to its operation is an x–y adjustment of the holding fixture that moves the rotational axis close to the line of bond pads. This adjustment only needs to be made and set once for a given imager.

The ability to mount and wire bond electronic chips on tilted surfaces will allow designers to create smaller and lighter instruments for space missions. Electrical interconnections for the imaging elements of a focal plane array can be moved out of the imaging plane, and gaps between sensors can be reduced.

Similar procedures can be applied to the general assembly of electronic components. This approach to interconnecting sub-assemblies would allow novel configurations and space-saving solutions.

This work was done by Todd J. Jones of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Technology Transfer at JPL
Mail Stop 321-123
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109-8099
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Refer to NPO-49716.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Wire Bonding to Pads in Tilted Planes

(reference NPO49716) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the February, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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