Silver Conductive Epoxy

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Circuit assembled onto Microfibre cloth using silver conductive epoxy.
LEFT - breakout board on 3D printed part with headers attached with silver conductive epoxy. RIGHT - LED matrix on 3D printed part, LEDs attached using silver conductive epoxy.

Z-axis conductive tape is a material that can be used to attach surface mount components to a PCB without using any soldering or special tools. This makes it very useful for producing circuits on temperature sensitive substrates and quickly prototyping circuits in an extremely safe fashion (ie. for kids or beginners).

See here for alternative methods of attaching components.

Z-axis conductive tape is essentially a double sided sticky tape with tiny pins of conductors that are seated in the perpendicular axis of the tape. What this means is that the sticky tape can hold components down and the tiny pins will conduct electricity down onto a pad but NOT short across to other positions. The result is that you can lie the tape very haphazardly and non-precisely as long as you place the component over its pads very carefully afterwards.

Benefits

  • Easy to use - requires no training or skill like soldering
  • Safe to use - non-toxic and does not require high temperatures
  • Doesn't destroy tracks - unlike soldering where it is possible to pull up tracks, placing down the tape will not harm the traces - in fact it provides protective coating.
  • Ductile connection - Conductive epoxy and to a lesser extent solder create inflexible connections that can cause irreparable damage to a component pad when flexed. Z-axis tape connections may become intermittent or fail but can always be repaired by pressing the components down again.

Drawbacks

  • Hard to source - At the moment, z-axis conductive tape is a lot more difficult to find than solder & as a result is more expensive
  • Intermittent connection - Because the connection relies on being compressed into the tiny conductors, it can often become intermittent or break with very minor flexing or other changes.
  • Weak Mechanical Hold - Parts aren't held on as strongly as they would be with solder or perhaps even conductive epoxy.

Compatible Substrates

List of all substrates compatible with the z-axis tape application method: