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1. WO2020114617 - HERMETIC PACKAGING OF ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS

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[ EN ]

HERMETIC PACKAGING OF ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS

The present invention relates to the field of electronic devices, in particular implantable electronic devices, e.g. for bio-medical applications, and more particularly, to hermetically packaged electronic devices for bio-medical in vivo applications and methods of packaging electronic components for manufacturing such electronic devices.

BACKGROUND

Electronic devices are ubiquitously used and often required to function even under harsh environmental conditions. E.g., implantable electronic devices, such as chips, are used in bio medical in vivo applications, e.g. for performing undertaking, controlling or monitoring bodily functions. Retinal implants are a particular example. Such implantable electronic devices are typically in direct contact with bodily fluids and tissues. Therefore, electronic devices, and in particular implantable electronic devices for bio-medical in vivo applications should be packaged in order to 1 ) protect the implanted device against whatever impairment by the body's aqueous environment, such as the intrusion of redox-active or corrosive compounds into the device, which may cause corrosion, damage or improper function of the implanted device, and 2) protect the body against leakage of harmful products released from the electronic device into the body's tissues, or against other disadvantageous effects for the patient's body, such as mechanical friction by the implanted device in the body.

Prior art approaches for packaging implantable electronic devices typically place the device in a metal housing. In this known way of packaging, the package is much larger than the original chip, requiring larger incisions during implantation, thus resulting in a more extensive wound healing and inflammation processes. Furthermore, the larger the implant, the larger the fibrous encapsulation may be, resulting in a higher risk of local tissue irritation for the patient during the lifetime of the implant. The proposed hermetic packaging of the present invention is superior to said prior art approaches in that it is small, e.g. substantially of a similar size as or only slightly larger than the original device size itself. Its small size enables a less traumatic implantation and a faster wound healing. As compared to prior art methods of enclosing electronic devices each individually in metal housings, the inventive method offers the advantage of being applicable for simultaneous processing of multiple electronic devices or components of the same or different kinds, and is largely substantially independent of the substrate or component materials used. Moreover, the packaging can be performed in a clean environment, e.g. in clean room conditions after processing of the electronic devices or components, and in this way contamination and/or damage can be avoided. Furthermore, the inventive packaging method offers an exceptionally good step coverage resulting in overlapping layers and uniform thickness of the encapsulation, which provide a good hermetic seal.

US 201 5/0297136 A1 describes an alternative method for packaging biomedical devices, which does not entail the inventive use of a removable layer as a temporary barrier for protecting the encapsulation layers from degradation during manufacturing. Due to its different method of processing, US 2015/0297136 A1 does not enable a hermetic encapsulation with only two layers and necessarily requires the use of an additional coating to achieve a hermetic seal. Specifically, the inventive packaging method enables the provision of a hermetically sealing double-layer covering the entire electronic device, and in particular its side walls. Such double-layered structures are particularly advantageous for ensuring a hermetic seal, as single layers may comprise pin holes (i.e., microscopic defects), which may constitute entry points for surrounding, potentially corrosive, media. A second layer of material will close these pin holes and secure the hermetic sealing of the encapsulation. With prior art methods, it was not possible to provide a double-layered seal fully surrounding all sides of an electronic device, mainly due to the fact that electronic device needs to be fastened during coating, rendering some of their surfaces inaccessible. It was not until the provision of the inventive packaging method, which involves flipping of the device and using a removable layer such as photoresist as a temporary protective barrier, that it became possible to deposit conformal sealing materials on the side walls from both sides and therefore provide a double layered fully surrounding seal. In addition, in contrast to the packaged device described in US 201 5/02971 36 A1 , the inventive packaging method obviates the need for sloped side walls of the device, and can be used with highly conformal coatings that are capable of coating straight and right-angled surfaces as commonly present in biomedical implants. Furthermore, US 2015/0297136 A1 does not relate to retinal implants or envisage the use of a top coating, let alone a transparent top coating as described in the present invention.

It is an advantage of the inventive method and packaging that a reliable hermetic encapsulation with a reduced number of pinholes can be obtained with only two overlapping encapsulation layers and without the need for an additional embedding layer surrounding the packaged chip.

SUMMARY

Inventive aspects relate to methods for hermetically packaging electronic components for manufacturing packaged electronic devices, e.g. implanted electronic devices for bio- or bio medical in vivo applications and packaged electronic devices obtained by such a method. Advantageously, the packaging according to the invention provides an improved hermetic barrier, which preferably minimizes the interaction between the electronic device or its functional electronic component on the one hand and its environment on the other hand, e.g. the in vivo environment when implanted. Thereby, the inventive packaging preferably 1 ) ensures maintenance of the function of the electronic device under in vivo conditions, e.g. by avoiding improper function of the device, e.g. due to corrosion or short circuit effects, and 2) protect the body against leakage/leaching or diffusion of materials of the device's electronic component into the surrounding tissue when implanted, or against other adverse effects, such as mechanical friction of the implanted device in the body. Put differently, the hermetic packaging characterizing the present invention's device establishes a reliable barrier against external factors. More specifically, the invention may provide a bi-directional diffusion barrier without affecting the device by its in vivo environment and without diffusion of unphysiological or non biocompatible materials of the electronic component into the tissue surrounding the implanted device. The advantageous properties of the inventive packaging are preferably obtained by providing layered encapsulation fully encapsulating the electronic component. The resulting packaged device exhibits at least partially overlapping layers embedding the electronic component to form a double layer structure, which is preferably obtained or obtainable using the inventive packaging method.

In a first aspect, the invention relates to an implantable packaged device comprising an electronic component and a hermetic package encapsulating the electronic component, wherein said packaging comprises a top and a bottom encapsulation layer, which least partially overlap so as to form a double layer structure. Preferably, the double layer structure at least partially, more preferably fully, extends over and thereby covers the electronic component's side walls. In this way, the packaging of the device may advantageously provide a hermetic seal for its electronic component. As used herein, the terms "hermetic", "hermetically seal" and "hermetic seal" means impervious or essentially impervious to undesired external factors negatively affecting the

device's function. That is, a "hermetic" seal or encapsulation preferably shields the implantable device from its environment, in particular the aqueous in vivo environment in an effective way, such that corrosion or whatever other functional impairment of the device is preferably minimized or avoided. Preferably, a "hermetic" seal or layer prevents the ingress of bodily fluids to the device. The term "hermetic" may further mean that the body is likewise shielded from the implanted device.

The packaged device is typically defined by side wall surfaces and by a top and bottom surface. The terms "top encapsulation layer" and "bottom encapsulation layer" are typically meant to cover - at least partially - the upper (top) surface of the electronic component to be encapsulated or the bottom surface of the electronic component. Thus, the "upper surface" of the electronic device is fully or partially covered by one or more layers, the outermost thereof defining the top surface of the packaged implantable device, whereas the bottom surface of the electronic component to be packaged is covered by one or more bottom layers, the outermost thereof defining the bottom surface of the packaged implantable device.

It is understood that the device may contain feedthroughs or holes for communication with its in vivo environment, e.g. by electrical stimulation of the surrounding cells or tissues. The "upper portion" of the packaged implantable device contains functional structures or features allowing the device to interact with its environment, e.g. by comprising stimulating or recording electrodes or photodiodes. The "top surface" of the implantable packaged device thereby (partially) covers its upper portion, whereas the "bottom surface" covers its lower portion. The top surface or a portion thereof may - for some embodiments - expose a coating layer as the outermost layer being in contact with the environment. In terms of the production method to provide a packaged device according to the invention, it is noted that the production method is characterized by initial steps applying one or more encapsulating layer/s on the top surface, while the bottom surface is only thereafter established by applying one or more bottom encapsulating layer/s.

In a second aspect, the invention provides an implantable system comprising the hermetically packaged device according to the invention.

In a third aspect, the invention relates to a packaging method for providing or manufacturing an implantable device, whereby the method comprises (a) providing at least one electronic component present on a substrate, (b) applying at least one top encapsulation layer to an electronic component, and (c) applying at least one bottom encapsulation layer to the electronic component, wherein the top and bottom encapsulation layer at least partially overlap so as to form a double layer structure. Advantageously, the inventive method may allow processing multiple electronic components, such as electronic dies, simultaneously to manufacture a

multitude of packaged electronic devices, which results in a cost-effective and scalable production process, especially for chip fabrication.

In a further aspect, which may also be an embodiment of the second aspect, the invention relates a method for packaging an electronic component to provide a packaged implantable device, said method comprising the steps of: (i) providing an assembly of at least one, preferably a plurality of electronic components separated from each other on a substrate by introducing recesses into an electronic component proto-structure, wherein adjacent electronic components and their common substrate support or define the recesses; (ii) applying at least one top encapsulation layer to an assembly, thereby coating the electronic components and lining the recesses; (iii) applying a removable layer to the assembly; (iv) partially removing the removable layer, thereby retaining a residual amount of the removable layer within lined recesses; (v) optionally flipping the assembly upside down; (vi) removing a) substrate, b) top encapsulation layer and c) residual amount of removable layer from the assembly's bottom side; and (vii) applying at least one bottom encapsulation layer to the assembly, wherein top and bottom encapsulation layers are applied so as to at least partially overlap, thereby forming a double layer structure. According to the inventive method, the top or upper side of the assembly is initially processed by adding the top encapsulation layer and the removable layer. Subsequently, the assembly is preferably flipped upside down (thus allowing the bottom side to be processed preferably from below and, less preferably, from above) to remove the substrate from the assembly's bottom side, and the top encapsulation layer below the removable layer within the recesses. Thereby, a residual amount of the removable layer is retained in each recess, which preferably protects the top encapsulation layer lining the sidewalls of the recesses against degradation. Subsequently, the removable layer is typically completely removed. Finally, the bottom encapsulation layer is applied to the assembly's bottom side and the sidewalls. Advantageously, the inventive method - preferably by flipping the assembly upside down during processing and retaining the removable layer for protection - allows for a hermetic packaging based on stacked encapsulation layers extending over the electronic component's side walls, which enables improved hermetic properties.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 A - F illustrates packaged devices 1 according to preferred embodiments of the invention. FIG. 2 illustrates a method for producing or manufacturing an encapsulated packaged device comprising an electronic component characterized by steps 309 through to 317 according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 illustrates another packaged device according to the invention embedding an electronic component by a hermetic packaging.

FIG. 4 A-C illustrate exemplary optional step 400 for applying top coating Ί 07 according to three alternative embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Although the present invention is described in detail below, it is to be understood that this invention is not limited to the particular methodologies, protocols and reagents described herein as these may vary. It is also to be understood that the terminology used herein is not intended to limit the scope of the present invention which will be limited only by the appended claims. Unless defined otherwise, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meanings as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art.

In the following, the features of the present invention will be described. These features are described for specific embodiments. It should, however, be understood that they may be combined in any manner and in any number to generate additional embodiments. The variously described examples and preferred embodiments should not be construed to limit the present invention to only explicitly described embodiments. This present description should be understood to support and encompass embodiments, which combine the explicitly described embodiments with any number of the disclosed and/or preferred features. Furthermore, any permutations and combinations of all described features in this application shall be considered supported by the description of the present application, unless it is understood otherwise.

Furthermore, the terms first, second and the like in the description and in the claims, are used for distinguishing between similar elements and not necessarily for describing a sequence, either temporally, spatially, in ranking or in any other manner. It is to be understood that the terms so used are interchangeable under appropriate circumstances and that the embodiments of the invention described herein are capable of operation in other sequences than described or illustrated herein. It is to be noticed that the method steps described herein may be interchanged in order as appropriate. In the following description, by way of illustration, a number of examples and embodiments with interchanged steps will be discussed, the present invention not being limited thereto.

Moreover, the terms top, bottom, over, under and the like in the description and the claims are used for descriptive purposes and not necessarily for describing relative positions. It is to be understood that the terms so used are interchangeable under appropriate circumstances and that the embodiments of the invention described herein are capable of operation in other orientations than described or illustrated herein.

Throughout this specification and the claims which follow, unless the context requires otherwise, the term «comprise", and variations such as «comprises" and «comprising", will be understood to imply the inclusion of a stated member, integer or step but not the exclusion of any other non-stated member, integer or step. The term «consist of" is a particular embodiment of the term «comprise", wherein any other non-stated member, integer or step is excluded. In the context of the present invention, the term «comprise" encompasses the term «consist of". The term «comprising" thus encompasses «including" as well as «consisting" e.g., a composition «comprising" X may consist exclusively of X or may include something additional e.g., X + Y.

The terms„a" and„an" and «the" and similar reference used in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the claims) are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. Recitation of ranges of values herein is merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range. Unless otherwise indicated herein, each individual value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element essential to the practice of the invention.

The word «substantially" does not exclude «completely" e.g., a composition which is «substantially free" from Y may be completely free from Y. Where necessary, the word «substantially" may be omitted from the definition of the invention.

The term «about" in relation to a numerical value x means x ± 10%.

In a first aspect, the present invention relates to a hermetically packaged electronic device comprising an electronic component. Preferably, said device is an implantable device. More preferably, said electronic device may be a retinal implant suitable or configured to be implanted in the eye. The electronic device according to the present invention comprises a hermetic packaging, which is characterized by a stacked or double layer structure, preferably extending over or at least partially covering the electronic component's side walls. In this way, the packaging ensures an improved hermetic encapsulation of the device for becoming suitable for long term implantation. Preferably, the hermetic packaging prevents or reduces adverse effects resulting from the aqueous in vivo environment after implantation, such as the intrusion of bodily fluids or cells, and diffusion of non-biocompatible agents, e.g. metals, from the electronic component into the body's in vivo environment. Preferably, the packaged device is enclosed or embedded by at least two corrosion-resistant encapsulation layers, i.e. a top and bottom encapsulation layer. The hermetically packaged device may also have more than two encapsulation layers. For instance, the device may comprise one or more top encapsulation layers that are layered on top of each other, and/or one or more bottom encapsulation layers that are partially of fully layered on top of each other. The outermost layer(s) may preferably be biocompatible. The hermetically packaged device may include further coatings, such as a top coating introducing further properties into the claimed electronic device. E.g., in case of hermetically packaged photovoltaic (retinal) implants, the top coating and/or top encapsulation layer may be made of transparent material for receiving data by encoded by light signals, e.g. visible or IR light. In case of an electronic device according to the invention serving as an implantable stimulator or an implantable recording device, the top coating or top encapsulation layer may embed electrodes. The top and bottom encapsulation layers may be composed of one or more conductive (sub)-layers, which may e.g. be patterned for instance as electrical tracks, thus allowing e.g. for one or multiple electrical connections between the top and bottom side of the devices.

By way of illustration, and without being limited thereto, exemplary packaged implantable devices 1 are shown in FIG. 1 A - F and FIG. 3. The packaged electronic device according to the invention comprises an electronic component 101 encapsulated by a hermetic packaging (whereby the hermetic packaging is defined by the layers surrounding and encapsulating electronic component 101 ), said packaging comprising at least top encapsulation layer 103 and a bottom encapsulation layer 104. The top and bottom encapsulation layers 103, 104 at least partially overlap so as to form areas of a double layer structure/s 105, 105', e.g. at the side walls of the encapsulated device. The top and bottom encapsulation layer are thus typically designed to not only (at least partially) cover the top surface and the bottom surface, respectively, of the electronic component to be packaged, but also extend beyond the top or the bottom surface, e.g. in vertical direction, thus also covering (at least partially) the side walls of the device. For the embodiments exemplified in FIG. 1 A to D, bottom encapsulation layer 104 forms the outer layer of the encapsulated device at the areas of double layer structure 105, 105'. However, an assembly 100 with the top encapsulation layer 103 forming the outermost layer of the device at such areas of double layer structure 105, 105' is disclosed herewith as well.

The packaged electronic device 1 may generally be an electronic device of any sort, including a chip, stimulator, and a control or monitoring device. The electronic device is preferably implantable. The packaged electronic device is preferably useful for biological or biomedical applications, in particular for in vivo applications. Exemplary implantable electronic devices include retinal implants, including sub- and epiretinal implants, e.g. those described in WO2016/18051 7 and PCT/EP2018/0691 59, or brain implants, e.g. for stimulating the visual cortex. Such implants allow to e.g. electrically stimulate neurons, e.g. within a patient's eye or brain (e.g. for regaining visual perception by stimulating the visual cortex or by stimulating neurons for treating Parkinson's disease), and/or to record electrical signals of the patients neurons. The hermetic packaging described herein ensures long term implant half life without the implanted electronic device being affected by the aqueous in vivo environment at the implantation site.

The electronic device 1 according to the present invention may include one or more electronic components 101 to be packaged, which may be integrated circuits, also referred to as dies. Further types of such components include micro electromechanical systems (MEMS), including 0-th level packaged MEMS, thin-film capped MEMS, etc. The MEMs devices include for instance passive components, actuators, sensors, etc. Further examples of such components include micro-fluidics devices. Still further examples include batteries, such as a rechargeable battery, circuits, transistors, resistors, photodiodes, capacitors and the like. Electronic components 101 may actually represent a stack of more than one individual electronic units, for instance memory chips on integrated circuits. Stacked units forming an electronic component 101 may be encapsulated as whole such that packaged implantable electronic device 1 comprises electronic component 101 comprising a stack of electronic units.

Electronic components 101 may - in addition to the electronic units - also comprise a (non encapsulating) layer 102. It may be positioned at the bottom surface of the electronic component 101 (see FIG. 1 C and D), but alternatively also at its top surface. Layer 102 may comprise or consist of any suitable substrate material including, for example, a semiconductor material, e.g. a silicon material, an electrically insulating material, a glass material, a polymer material, and if suitable an electrically conducting material such as for example a metal. Preferably, layer 102 may comprise or consist of ceramics or glass, optionally selected from silicon oxide or dioxide, optionally obtained by oxidation of a silicon substrate. Layer 102 may advantageously act as a barrier protecting the electronic component 101 in the course of the packaging method, in particular at the step of removing substrate 1 10. For instance, layer 102 may be composed of a material that is not prone to decomposition/degradation when subjected to the step of removal of substrate 1 10. Electronic component 101 , layer 102 and substrate 1 10 may preferably be

selected to form a "silicon on insulator" or "SOI" wafer structure, which is readily available and widely used in the art. To this end, layer 102 may preferably be configured as a layer of silicon oxide disposed on a silicon substrate 1 10. Specifically for photodiodes or other light sensitive electronic components 101 , the silicon dioxide layer 102 may preferably be thermally grown on electronic component 101 using known methods in the art, in order to provide an interface between electronic units/s and layer 102 of component 101 with favourable electronic and/or optical properties.

It is preferred that double layer structure 105, 105' resulting from top and bottom encapsulation layers 103, 104 at least partially, more preferably fully, covers side walls 106, 106' of electronic component 101 . The double-layered structure covering or at least partially extending over side walls 106, 106' advantageously confers an improved hermetic encapsulation and may, in some embodiments, preferably obviate the need for an additional encapsulation layer surrounding top and bottom encapsulation layer 103, 104, respectively.

Top and/or bottom encapsulation layer/s 103, 104 are preferably capable of providing a hermetic seal for electronic component 101 . The terms "hermetic seal" and "hermetically sealing" and "hermetic" are defined elsewhere herein. Top and/or bottom encapsulation layer 103, 104 may be advantageously biocompatible. The term "bio-compatible" and "bio-compatibility" refer to the ability of a medical device to perform its intended function in the host without eliciting any undesired local or systemic effects for the host. Top and bottom encapsulation layer 103, 104 may be corrosion-resistant. The term "corrosion resistant" refers to the material's resistance against its reaction with its aqueous environment as typically experienced under in vivo conditions. Redox-active compounds may corrode the device's material. Corrosion of an implant in vivo means that the implant is typically oxidized or otherwise chemically attacked by its environment. "Corrosion resistance" is the capacity to withstand deterioration and chemical modification/degradation, e.g. by redox reactions.

For embodiments (see e.g. embodiments of FIG. 1 A or of FIG. 1 B to D and of FIG. 3 with an additional coating of the top surface) characterized by an hermetic packaging which is composed of one single top and one single bottom encapsulation layer 103, 104 only overlapping with each other to preferably at least partially cover the electronic component's side walls 106, 106', i.e. the hermetic packaging does not comprise any further encapsulation layer, it is preferred that top and bottom encapsulation layer 103, 104 are both biocompatible and corrosion-resistant, in order to ensure both in vivo compatibility and proper function of the electronic device 1 . The skilled person is readily able to select suitable materials for the top and bottom encapsulation layer 103, 104 preferably exhibiting bio-compatibility and/or corrosion-resistance. Exemplary

suitable materials for the top and bottom encapsulation layer 103, 104 include metals; ceramics including oxides, nitrides, and carbides; diamond-like carbon; diamond; glass; polymers, in particular low permeability and/or dense polymers; and combinations thereof. Specifically, suitable metals may be selected from titanium (Ti), platinum (Pt), stainless steel, titanium-nickel, palladium, niobium, tantalum, and combinations or alloys thereof; suitable ceramics may be selected from silicon oxide, silicon nitride, silicon carbide, silicon oxycarbide, titanium carbide, titanium nitride, titanium oxide, aluminum oxide, aluminum nitride, zirconium oxide, and combinations thereof; suitable polymers may be selected from fluorocarbons, polyurethane, polyether ether ketone (PEEK), silicone, PDMS, parylene, polyimide, polycarbonate, polycarbonate urethane, silicone, silicone-polyester-urethane, durimide (photo-definable polyimide), cyclic olefin polymer (COP), cyclic olefin copolymer (COC), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polyphenylene, polysulfone, polypheny Isulfone, combinations thereof and multilayers thereof. Top and bottom encapsulation layer 103, 104 may comprise or consist of the same or different materials. Top and bottom encapsulation layer 103, 104 may comprise or consist of monolayers or multilayers (e.g. more than one (sub)-layer) of the materials specified herein.

As indicated, hermetic packaging may comprise at least one additional top encapsulation layer 103a, and/or an additional bottom encapsulation layer 104a (see e.g. embodiments of Figures 1 E and 1 F), which preferably form at least one additional double layer structure 105a, 105c at the side walls and at least one additional double layer structure 105d at the bottom (FIG. 1 E) or at least two additional double layer structures (105a, 105b and 105c) at the side walls (FIG. 1 F). Such an additional double layer structure 105b, 105c may be due to the outer encapsulation layers 104 and 104a at the bottom side and/or the side walls of the device. In particular, such an additional bottom encapsulation layer 104a may cover at least partially, more preferably fully, side walls 106, 106' of electronic component 101 . It may result - as shown for the embodiments of FIG. 1 E and 1 F - in a triple encapsulation layer side wall arrangement with the top encapsulation layer 103 forming an inner double layer structure 105 together with bottom encapsulation layer 104. The bottom encapsulation layer 104 furthermore forms a second double layer structure 105c together with the additional bottom encapsulation layer 104a resulting in a triple layer structure at the side walls. Analogous arrangements may be provided with the bottom layer encapsulation 104 being the innermost encapsulation layer at the side wall areas such that the top encapsulation layer 103 is sandwiched between the additional bottom encapsulation layer 104a as the outermost layer and the bottom encapsulation layer 104 being in such an embodiment the innermost encapsulation layer at the side wall areas. Moreover, the additional bottom encapsulation layer 104a may establish another double layer structure 105d at the bottom side of the device with bottom encapsulation layer 104. FIG. 1 F exemplifies the embodiment of FIG. 1 E, however, additionally containing a partial additional top encapsulation layer 103a on top of encapsulation layer 103, thereby forming a double layer structure at a peripheral region of the top side of the packaged electronic device 1 according to the invention as well. Three double layer structures 105a, 105b and 105c (four side wall layers) are provided at the side walls of device 101 . The use of more than one or more than 2 stacked encapsulation layers may advantageously improve hermetic encapsulation and provide an even more reliable barrier against external influences. Embodiments using such multilayer layer configurations are still compatible with undelayed wound healing and low local tissue irritation risk upon implantation surgery, as the additional layer does not prominently enlarge the implanted device.

To this end, hermetic packaging may be provided with at least one additional top encapsulation layer 103a and/or at least one additional bottom encapsulation layer 104a. Additional top encapsulation layer 103a is preferably applied onto encapsulation layer 103. Additional bottom encapsulation layer 104a is preferably applied onto bottom encapsulation layer 104. Thereby, additional top and bottom encapsulation layer 103a, 104a preferably form the outermost layers of hermetic packaging and are thus in direct contact with the environment, i.e. the body tissue, when implanted. Top and bottom encapsulation layers 103, 104 are sandwiched between the outermost layers 103a, 104a and the top and bottom surface of electronic component 101. Therefore, top and bottom encapsulation layers 103, 104 may, but need not necessarily, be composed of a biocompatible material (in particular whenever they are not in direct contact with body tissue). However, top and bottom encapsulation layers 103, 104 preferably comprise or consist of a corrosion-resistant material as specified above in order to protect electronic component 101 against corrosive degradation by the environment. Additional top and/or bottom encapsulation layers 103a, 104a, if present, may, but need not necessarily be composed of a corrosion-resistant material (in particular, whenever layers 103, 104 are suitable to protect electronic component 101 against corrosion). Layers 103a and 104a, if present, are preferably composed of a biocompatible material.

Additional top and bottom encapsulation layers 103a, 104a may be composed of monolayers or multilayers (e.g. more than one (sub)-layer). Additional top and bottom encapsulation layers 103a, 104a may be composed of the same or different materials.

For instance, preferred embodiments exhibiting "stacked" or multiple encapsulation layers may include a top and a bottom encapsulation layer 103, 104 made from a corrosion-resistant material, such as a metal, and may further be embedded in additional top and/or bottom

encapsulation layers 103a, 104a made from a biocompatible material, e.g. silicone, parylene, hydrogels, etc.

(Additional) top and bottom encapsulation layers 103, 103a, 104 and 104a, in particular in view of their optional multi-layered structure, may also comprise at least one conductive (sub)-layer that permits electrical connection between the top and the bottom side or portion of the packaged device. It may be preferred that the circuitry is positioned on the top side. One or several of those (sub)-layers can be patterned, for instance in the shape of electrical tracks, to permit one or more electrical connections between the top and the bottom side of the packaged device. For instance, electronic component 101 may have circuitry on its top and/or bottom side that are interconnected by one of several layers of electrical tracks that are part of at least one of the encapsulation layers. Encapsulation layers 103, 103a, 104, 104a may therefore comprise at least one of patterned or non-patterned, electrically conductive or electrically isolating (sub)-layers, e.g. platinum, titanium, silicon carbide, silicon oxide, or silicon nitride. In one embodiment, the conductive encapsulation (sub)-layers, such as metals, may all be electrically connected to each other and the electrical ground of the circuitry of the electronic component 101 . In another embodiment, the (patterned) passive conductive tracks or full conductive (sub)-layers of at least one of encapsulation layers 103, 103a, 104, 104a serve to establish an electrical contact to the circuitry.

The electronic device 1 according to the present invention may further include at least one top coating 107 as illustrated in FIG. 1 B - D. Top coating 107 is preferably at least partially overlapped by top encapsulation layer 103 to advantageously ensure hermeticity of the packaging. As top coating 107 typically forms an outermost layer of the hermetic packaging according to the invention, e.g. at the top side of the inventive device, it is in direct contact with body tissue when implanted and thus preferably biocompatible. Preferably, top coating 107 may be corrosion-resistant as well. Top coating 107 may be composed of any suitable material which preferably adds a further functionality to the hermetic packaging of the inventive device. E.g., in particular for retinal implants as implantable electronic devices 1 , top coating 107 may be composed of light transparent material. Advantageously, light (e.g. lR or visible light) transparent top coatings are useful for retinal stimulators, e.g., photovoltaic retinal stimulators. Specifically, top coating 107 may comprise or consist of a material selected from ceramic, including SiC, SiOC; SiCb; glass; diamond or diamond like carbon; aluminum oxides; titanium oxides; and combinations thereof. Top coating 107 may be composed of monolayers or multilayers (representing (sub)-layers) of the above-specified materials. Each (sub-) layer may be composed of identical or preferably distinct materials, in particular, as disclosed above. The above-specified materials of top coating 107 may be provided in amorphous or crystalline form, or both.

As indicated, implantable electronic device 1 may preferably be an electrically stimulating device, such as a retinal implant or retinal stimulator. To this end, hermetic packaging may, e.g. by its top coating 107 and/or its top encapsulation layer 103, comprise electronic traces 108 and/or cover, surround or embed electrodes 109 being part of and electronically connected to the electronic component 101 . Preferably, electrodes 109 are provided within or extending beyond the hermetic packaging, in particular within or projecting beyond top coating 107. Such an embodiment is illustrated in FIG. 1 D. Top coating 107 may include holes or feedthroughs to pass or exchange electrical, light or chemical signals (e.g. for data transmission) to and from component 101 . Such feedthroughs may for example include electrodes 109 to transfer electrical or ionic signals. Other exemplary feedthroughs that may be provided may be liquid feedthroughs. Feedthroughs may be connected to electrical leads for receiving or transmitting electrical signals (e.g. to sense signals or to electrically stimulate target cells or tissues). Feedthroughs may be connected to flexible circuits connected to or in communication with further electrodes or devices remote from component 101 .

Preferably, the electronic component 101 is an integrated circuit or a die, with electrodes 109 being provided as feedthroughs. Electrodes 109 are preferably in electrical communication with electronic traces 108 disposed in or on said integrated circuit and may, e.g., transduce electrical signals generated through said integrated circuit. However, the skilled person readily understands that the provision of electronic traces 108 and/or electrodes 109 is not restricted to electrical stimulators, or retinal stimulators. Electronic traces may, for instance, also be provided in devices which are used as sensors or controllers or for other applications. In implanted devices 1 , selected electronic traces 108 and/or electrodes 109 are preferably in direct contact with the body tissue when implanted. To this end, electrodes 109 may preferably be made of biocompatible material. Preferably, electronic traces 108 and/or electrodes 109 may be made of corrosion-resistant material to reduce or avoid corrosion and damage to electronic component 101 . Electronic traces 108 and/or electrodes 109 may preferably comprise or consist of a material selected from platinum, black/porous platinum, iridium, iridium/platinum, iridium oxide, poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) polystyrene sulfonate (PEDOTiPSS), PEDOT:PSS, (porous) titanium nitride, doped diamond or doped diamond like carbon, and graphene.

In some preferred embodiments, the inventive device 1 may be as illustrated by FIG. 1 C or D, comprising at least one electronic component 101 , which preferably includes an integrated circuit or die and, optionally, includes further electronic units, such as passives or active circuits, fully packaged or embedded by a hermetic packaging comprising a top encapsulation layer 103 and a bottom encapsulation layer 104, each composed of a metal, preferably titanium. Electronic components 101 , 101 ' may include a layer 102, typically positioned at the bottom side of the

electronic component, which may be composed of ceramics or glass, metal, or combinations thereof, preferably of silicon dioxide. In specific embodiments, layer 102 is foreseen as a double layer structure e.g. composed of one layer of ceramics or glass and one layer of metal, or e.g. of two metal layers. Electrodes 109 as part of component 101 , 101 ' are preferably made of platinum (Pt), including porous and platinum black, (porous) TiN, iridium oxide, or poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) polystyrene sulfonate (PEDOT:PSS), establishing an electrical connection between electronic component 101 and the surrounding bodily fluid, tissue or cells. Electrodes 109, e.g. protruding upwardly such that they are embedded within top layer 107 or projecting beyond top layer 107, are preferably configured to establish an electrical connection between component 101 , 101 ' and the surrounding environment, e.g. the body tissue when implanted. In preferred embodiments, electronic traces 108 may be provided as part of the electronic component 101 , 101 ', e.g. on the top or upper surface of components 101 , 101 '.

The hermetic packaging of the device 1 preferably comprises a top layer 107, which is preferably transparent. Top layer 107 may preferably be composed of a ceramic layer, more preferably a ceramic multilayer, even more preferably a ceramic multilayer comprising or consisting of silicon carbide, for instance amorphous silicon carbide. Top layer 107 may also comprise electronic traces, preferably from titanium (Ti), gold (Au), platinum (Pt), copper (Cu), palladium (Pd) or aluminum (Al) or a multilayer thereof,

Figure 3 shows another embodiment of an inventive packaged implantable device 1 . The device according to Figure 3 comprises the additional coating layer 107. The top encapsulation layer 103 overlaps the coating layer 107 at its edge zone. Such a device 1 may e.g. obtained by carrying out the inventive method in combination with the steps of e.g. Figure 4 A (step 300).

Preferably, device 1 may be a retinal implant packaged by the hermetic packaging for implantation in the eyes, preferably configured for being implanted epi- or subretinally. It may alternatively be configured for being implantable in the neural cortex, in particular for contacting neuronal cortex cells involved in visual data processing.

In a second aspect, the invention provides a system, comprising at least one packaged implantable device 1 as described herein, e.g. suitable or configured for being implanted in the eye. Device 1 may be obtainable by a method for manufacturing the claimed device 1 as disclosed herein. The system may also comprise other implantable or external (non-implantable) devices or components. The inventive system may also comprise more than one, e.g. a plurality of implantable devices 1 . As indicated above, electronic components 101 to be packaged may include integrated circuits or dies, CMOS logics (such as steering, programmable devices), MEMS (such as membranes for example for pressure sensing, drug reservoirs, microfluidics for drug

delivery), batteries, antenna (for example for loading a rechargeable battery, for programming a reprogrammable device).

The system may be provided together with external devices, such as video glasses and an external pocket processor in communication with component 101 . Typically, component 101 may communicate with external devices via wireless communication, e.g. through infrared communication, patterned light, RF communication, or any other suitable means. Alternatively, component 101 may communicate with external devices via wired connections, e.g. including intracutaneous wires. In preferred embodiments, the implantable component of the system according to the invention may comprise a hermetically packaged component 101 as described herein as device 1 and as illustrated e.g. in Fig. 1 D as a retinal implant. Packaged component 101 may preferably be implanted into the eye, more preferably being suitable or configured for implantation epi- or subretinally. Packaged electronic components 101 , 101 ' may be stacked and/or may be spaced apart from each other on a suitable support, or both. Functionally distinct packaged electronic components 101 , 101 ' may be electrically connected via electronic traces, e.g. via metallization on a common support. The support may be flexible or stretchable. Packaged electronic components 101 , 101 ' may be bonded to the support via suitable bonding means. The system may be provided with a global feedthrough, e.g. an electrical feedthrough, a fluid feedthrough etc.

In a third aspect, the present invention provides a method for producing or manufacturing an implantable packaged device 1 , the method comprising (a) providing at least one electronic component 101 positioned on a substrate 1 10, (b) applying at least one top encapsulation layer 103, 103a to electronic component 101 , and (c) applying at least one bottom encapsulation layer 104, 104a to electronic component 101 , wherein the top and bottom encapsulation layer 103, 103a, 104, 104a at least partially overlap so as to form a double layer structure 105, 105', 105a, 105b, 105c, 105d, e.g. a double layer structure at/on the side wall areas of device 1 , at/on the bottom side of device 1 and/or at/on the top side device 1 .

In a fourth aspect, which may be an embodiment of the third aspect, the present invention provides a method (as e.g. illustrated in FIG. 2) for producing or manufacturing an implantable packaged device, said method comprising the following steps 309, 310, 31 1 , 312, 313, 314, 315, optional step 316, and 317, preferably according to that order of steps.

In step 309, an assembly 100 is provided as a proto-structure with a continuous layer 102 and a continuous electronic component proto-structure 101 being positioned thereon. At its bottom, assembly 100 is supported by substrate 1 10.

In step 310, an assembly 100 of at least one, preferably a plurality of electronic components 101 and 101 ' is provided, with said electronic components 101 and 101 ' being spaced apart and separated from each other on substrate 1 10 by a recess or gap. Adjacent electronic components 101 , 101 ' and substrate 1 10 define recesses 1 1 1 . The recesses 1 1 1 are laterally surrounded by side walls 106, 106' of electronic components 101 , 101 '. In the present example, the assembly may be an assembly of dies 101 , 101 ' on a wafer 1 10. Advantageously, substrate 110 may support a larger plurality of e.g. at least 10 or at least 20 or at least 50 or at least 100 or at least 500 components 101 , 101 '. The provision of assembly 100 according to step 310 includes introduction of recesses 1 1 1 into at least one continuous electronic component proto-structure 101 (as shown by step 309 of Figure 2) serving as the basic structure for the electronic components on which the inventive method is applied. It is composed of suitable materials (as described in the context of component 101 and layer 102), with potentially several electronic and/or optical features, such as electronic circuitry or photodiodes or other sensor/stimulator features, and being typically made of several patterned (sub)-layers, disposed on/in substrate 1 10. By step 310, electronic components 101 , 101 ' are separated from each other by introduction of recesses 1 1 1 and thus singulated. Recesses 1 1 1 separating electronic components 101 , 101 ' are introduced e.g. by dry or wet etching. That step of separating the electronic components from each another permits the manufacture of a larger number of electronic components on the same (typically flat) substrate 1 10 based on one single electronic component proto-structure. This may allow the inventive packaging method to be applied simultaneously to a plurality of identical or distinct (depending on the nature of the proto-structure) electronic components 101 , 101 ', which enables a time- and cost-efficient manufacturing process.

In step 31 1 , at least one top encapsulation layer 103 is applied to the top surface of assembly 100, thereby coating the upper surface of electronic components 101 , 101 ' horizontally and lining the walls of recesses 1 1 1 vertically. Suitable materials for top encapsulation layer 103 are described above. It will be understood that top encapsulation layers 103, 103a may preferably be composed of a conformal material, which is capable of conforming to the contours of electronic components 101 , 101 ' and recesses 1 1 1 and thereby covers components 101 , 101 ' and the walls of recesses 1 1 1 . Due to the preferred choice of conformal materials and deposition techniques, such as non-directional or partially directional physical vapor deposition techniques, sputtering, or chemical vapor deposition, for top encapsulation layer 103, a reliable and reproducible step-like (non-flat) coverage (including horizontal surface and vertical side wall coverage) is typically achieved. As indicated, step 31 1 may also comprise adding monolayers or multilayers of the same or different materials. Step 31 1 may also comprise applying at least one additional top encapsulation layer 103a (not shown in Figure 2, step 31 1 ) to assembly 100,

typically after applying top encapsulation layer 103. At least one of the (additional) top encapsulation layers 103, 103a is preferably selected from a corrosion-resistant material sufficient to hermetically seal component 101 against the environment. The outermost top encapsulation layer 103 of the packaging, or, when adding an additional top encapsulation layer, outermost encapsulation layer 103a is preferably composed of a biocompatible material in order to reduce or avoid irritation or damage of the surrounding body cells, tissues or fluids.

In step 312, a removable layer 112 is applied to assembly 100, typically on its upper surface, to cover the previously coated components 101 , 101 ' and lined recesses 1 1 1 . Preferably, removable layer 1 12 may comprise or consist polymeric material preferably selected from a resin, more preferably a photosensitive resin (photoresist), and a dissolvable polymeric material. Photosensitive resins or photoresists (also known as photopolymers or light-activated resins) are oligomers or polymers that alter their properties when exposed to light, typically in the ultraviolet or visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Specifically, upon irradiation of light, photosensitive resins either polymerize into insoluble cross-linked network polymers ("negative photoresist") or decompose solid polymers into semi liquid or soluble or dissolvable ("positive photoresist"). In the context of the present invention, positive photosensitive resins as commonly known are used. Removable layer 1 12 is applied as a temporary protection of components 101 , 101 ' and, more specifically, top encapsulation layer 103, 103a for subsequent processing. Therefore, removable layer 1 12 is preferably composed of a material that can be removed without affecting electronic components 101 , 101 ' or top encapsulation layer 103, 103a. Removing removable layer 1 12 may preferably be accomplished by applying photoresist developers or photoresist strippers as commonly used in the semiconductor industry.

In step 313, removable layer 1 12 is removed from the assembly to expose top encapsulation layer 103 on the surface of components 101 , 101 '. The removing step may be accomplished by any suitable physical and/or chemical means, including grinding, dry or wet etching and/or stripping in wet solutions or in a plasma. Preferably, removing may preferably leave a residual amount of removable layer 1 12 in lined recesses typically covering the bottom surface of the recess. This residual amount of removable layer 1 12 is intended to form a protective barrier or "plug" protecting the top encapsulation layer lining recesses 1 1 1 against degradation by subsequent processing steps.

In particular in preferred embodiments with removable layer 1 12 being composed of a positive photoresist, step 313 may include sub-step 1 ) exposing assembly 100 to light that is directed only to the top surface (but not to the bottom portion of recesses 1 1 1 ) and sub-step 2) applying a photoresist developer to assembly 100. In this way, it is ensured that only the photoresist

removable layer 1 12 at or near the top surface of assembly 100 is removed, while a residual amount of unexposed photoresist remains within the bottom portion of recesses 1 1 1 . Alternatively, removable layer 1 12 may be composed of a negative photoresist. Under such circumstances, step 313 may include sub-step 1 ) exposing assembly 100 to light that is directed only to the bottom portion of recesses 1 1 1 (but not to the top surface) and sub-step 2) applying a photoresist developer to assembly 100. In this way, it is ensured that only the unexposed photoresist removable layer 1 12 at the top surface of assembly 100 is removed, while a residual amount of photoresist remains within the bottom portion of recesses 11 1 .

In step 314 (as shown in FIG. 2, step 314a), assembly 100 is flipped (not shown) and processed upside down. The flipping of the device facilitates the processing of its bottom side by making the bottom side accessible from above. To this end, assembly 100 may be temporarily attached to temporary carrier 1 13. Temporary attachment may be accomplished by any suitable adhesion or bonding means, which are preferably reversible, e.g. via a suitable adhesive. Preferably, the adhesive may be characterized by an adjustable adhesive connection that can be modified, e.g. reduced by the application of e.g. heat, UV irradiation, laser light or other light irradiation so as to induce debonding of assembly 100 from temporary carrier 1 13. Temporary carrier 113 may be composed of any suitable solid material, e.g. silicon or glass.

This processing advantageously allows for the provision of stacked or double-layered encapsulation layer structures 105, 105', which ensures a hermetic sealing of the electronic component 101 , 101 ' by the resulting packaging.

Step 314 includes several sub-steps of removing the layers from the bottom of assembly 100 such that lined recesses 1 1 1 are left open for being finally lined with bottom encapsulation layer 104, 104' (see following step 315) to form a double layer structure 105, 105' at least partially, more preferably fully, covering the electronic components' side walls 106, 106'.

In step 314 a, substrate 1 10 is removed, thereby exposing the electronic components' 101 , 101 ' bottom side, optionally covered by layer 102, and the top encapsulation layer lining recesses 1 1 1 . Step 314a may also be referred to as "thinning" of the substrate. Substrate 1 10 may be removed by any suitable physical and chemical means, including grinding and etching. Preferably, optional layer 102 may act as a barrier protecting the components' 101 , 101 ' bottom side against thinning or from whatever other damage resulting from the removal step, and may thereby allow precise control of the removal of substrate 1 10 without affecting electronic components 101 , 101 '. The "thinning" is preferably performed until substrate 1 10 has been removed (step 314b) or, more preferably until the residual amount of removable layer 112 left within recesses 1 1 1 is exposed by removal of layer 103, 103' (sub-step 314 c). In this way,

electronic components 101 , 101 ' remain connected only by the top encapsulation layer 103, 103' lining recesses 1 1 1 via removable layer 1 12.

In sub-step 314 c, top encapsulation layer 103, 103' is removed, thereby exposing residual removable layer 1 12 forming a protective barrier within lined recesses. The protective barrier allows maintaining the integrity of top encapsulation layers 103, 103' for subsequent processing, in particular when removing of substrate 1 10. Advantageously, that approach allows the formation of a double-layer structure 105, 105' to be formed initially by overlapping top encapsulation layers 103, 103', and subsequently by applying bottom encapsulation layers 104, 104' which preferably extend/s over and fully cover/s the entire side walls of the resulting electronic components 101 , 101 '. In this way, an improved and highly efficient hermetic encapsulation is enabled.

In sub-step 314d, residual removable layer 1 12 is removed, thereby exposing lined recesses 1 1 1 for coating with bottom encapsulation layer 104, 104'. Preferably, removable layer 1 12 may be removed by exposing layer 1 12 to conditions or chemicals that are capable of dissolving or otherwise removing removable layer 112. Generally, removing may involve any suitable physical or chemical means, such as etching, stripping, or other treatment with suitable chemicals or solvents capable of removing removable layer 1 12. In case of a photoresist removable layer 1 12, removing may preferably comprise: applying light and a photoresist developer, applying a photoresist developer alone or photoresist stripping in wet solutions or a plasma.

Selection of suitable techniques for removing the individual layers during processing is well known. The choice of the appropriate techniques will usually depend on the layer's material to be removed. It will be understood that appropriate removing techniques are typically selected based on the nature of the material to be removed, i.e. each layer is removed by a technique which preferentially or exclusively removes the target layer only rather that other, non-target layers or materials of assembly 100.

In step 315, at least one bottom encapsulation layer 104, 104a is applied to assembly 100, preferably in upside-down orientation for processing from above, to coat - at the bottom side -electronic components 101 , 101 ' and recesses 1 1 1 lined with top encapsulation layer 103, 103a. Suitable materials for bottom encapsulation layer 104, 104a are described above. It will be understood that bottom encapsulation layers 104, 104a may preferably be composed of a conformal material or deposited by techniques that are at least partially directional, which is capable of conforming to the contours of electronic components 101 , 101 ' and recesses 11 1 and thereby covers components 101 , 101 ' and the inner walls of recesses 1 1 1 previously lined with top encapsulation layer 103, 103a. Due to the preferred choice of conformal materials and

deposition techniques for bottom encapsulation layer 104, 104a, a highly satisfying step-like coverage is typically established. As indicated, step 315 may allow applying a monolayer or multilayers of the same or different materials. Step 315 may also comprise - in addition to applying bottom encapsulation layer 104 - a further sub-step of applying at least one additional bottom encapsulation layer 104a (not shown in step 315) to assembly 100, typically after applying bottom encapsulation layer 104. At least one bottom encapsulation layer 104, 104a is preferably selected from a corrosion-resistant material allowing to hermetically seal components 101 , 101 ' against the environment. The outermost bottom encapsulation layer 104, 104a being the interface to the environment is preferably composed of a biocompatible material in order to reduce or avoid irritation of or affecting the surrounding body cells, tissues or fluids. As indicated, step 315 may comprise adding monolayers or multilayers of the same or different materials.

The inventive method enables top and bottom encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a, 104, 104a to be preferably applied so as to at least partially overlap and form a double layer structure 105, 105', 105a. Said double layer structure 105, 105a preferably at least partially, more preferably fully, covers the electronic components' side walls 106, 106'; in particular, by using removable layer 1 12 as a protective barrier for top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a lining recesses 1 1 1 (see step 314), and by preferably altering the orientation of the assembly 100 ("flipping") upside-down (allowing upside-down processing of assembly 100) before applying bottom encapsulation layer 104, 104a.

One or more of top and/or bottom encapsulation layers 103, 103a, 104, 104a (or at least a portion thereof) may be patterned using for instance photolithography and etching or lift-off during the process, to introduce e.g. continuous tracks (e.g. at least at the sidewall area) allowing electrical interconnects between the top and bottom side of electronic components 101 , 101 '.

By optional step 316, assembly 100 is secured or fastened to supporting layer 1 14, while assembly 100 as provided according to step 315 is released from temporary carrier 1 13, preferably subsequently. Securing or bonding may be accomplished by any suitable bonding means, e.g. via a suitable adhesive. The adhesive may preferably be characterized by an adjustable adhesive connection or bonding, which may be modified and, in particular, reduced by applying heat and/or UV light and/or laser light. Supporting layer 114 may preferably be composed of a flexible material, e.g. a thin film, which enables transport or storage of the electronic components 101 , 101 '. Exemplary materials include flexible polymers, such as so-called semiconductor„dicing tapes". Advantageously, the use of a flexible film allows removing the electronic components 101 , 101 ', such as dies, by a„die picking" process, whereby the die is pushed from the back using one or multiple pins, and by using a vacuum "pick-up tool" to lift

or take off the die from the front. That step is typically carried out by automatic„die picking" machines.

That release from supporting layer 1 14 is shown in step 31 7. The resulting device 1 is encapsulated by top and bottom encapsulating layers 103 and 104 resulting from step 315. Or it is released upon step 316 from its supporting layer 1 14. The assembly 100 according to step 31 7 represents an embodiment of the invention being tightly encapsulated and having the desired hermeticity for its in vivo implantation. It is characterized by a double layer structure 105, 105' formed by encapsulation layers 103 and 104 over the entire side wall as a result of the inventive method as shown by the embodiment of FIG. 2.

The inventive method may optionally further comprise step 31 7 for providing a top coating 107. Top coating 107 may either be applied prior to applying top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a in step 31 1 . Or, alternatively, top coating 107 may be applied only after applying the top encapsulation layer 103, 103a in step 31 1 , e.g. either prior to step 312 or after step 316. Should the coating step 400 be carried out prior to step 31 1 , it is carried out before the recesses 11 1 are introduced into assembly 100 as described above (i.e. onto the assembly 100 of step 309 prior to step 310 of FIG. 2) or after the recess has been introduced (applied onto the assembly 100 of step 310 prior to step 31 1 ). Depending on when the top coating 107 is applied to assembly 100 in the course of the inventive method, the top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a may at least partially overlap the coating layer 107 or, alternatively, coating layer 107 may at least partially overlap with encapsulation layers 103, 103a. When applying top coating 107 by step 400 only after step 316, it preferably forms a further layer on top of the layers 103, 103a forming the outermost upper layer of the resulting device 1 being in direct contact with the environment.

Top coating 107 is - according to one embodiment - preferably applied to the electronic components 101 , 101 ' (or assembly's 100 top side) prior to the application of encapsulation layer(s) 103, 103a. The application may involve any suitable means, preferably deposition, including chemical vapor deposition (CVD), including plasma-enhanced CVD (PECVD), or physical vapor deposition (PVD), or atomic layer deposition (ALD) or underlying layer oxidation. Subsequently, top coating 107 is preferably partially removed, followed by application of at least one top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a such that top coating 107 and encapsulation layer(s) 103, 103a preferably at least partially overlap with each other. It may be preferred to allow the at least one top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a to overlap the coating layer 107 at least at the edge region of the coating layer 107. Partial removal of top coating 107 is preferably envisaged for exposing the assembly's edges. Removal involves any suitable means, e.g. any chemical or physical process, preferably wet or dry etching and/or lift-off. Partial overlap of top coating 107 and top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a due to the resulting packaging hermetically encloses electronic components 101 , 101 ' without interfering with the intended function of top coating 107.

Alternatively, top coating 107 may be applied only after applying top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a in step 31 1 . To this end, at least one top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a is applied to the electronic components' 101 , 101 ' from above at their top side. Subsequently, top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a is partially removed from electronic component 101 , 101 ' for top coating 107 to be applied, e.g. at the site of removed portion of the top encapsulation layer 103, 103a. E.g., top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a may be removed from the central portion of the surface of electronic components 101 , 101 ', while the peripheral portion covering the edges of the electronic components 101 , 101 ' remains covered by the at least one top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a. Any suitable means may be applied, e.g. any chemical or physical process, preferably wet or dry etching and/or lift-off. Thereafter, top coating 107 is applied to electronic components 101 , 101 ', such that top coating 107 and encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a preferably at least partially overlap with each other. As above, top coating 107 may be preferably applied by deposition, including chemical vapor deposition (CVD), including PECVD, or physical vapor deposition (PVD), or atomic layer deposition (ALD) or underlying layer oxidation.

The resulting embodiments exhibiting top coating 107 depend on the specific underlying method applied and the stage of the carrying out step 400 in the course of the inventive method. Such alternatives of applying top coating 107 are illustrated in FIG. 4 A-C.

All of the embodiments shown in Figure 4 A-C represent alternative preferred embodiments of step 400 at distinct stages of the inventive method. By step 400 of Figure 4 A, the components 101 , 101 ' being separated by recess 1 1 1 (see step 310 of the method according to FIG. 2) are coated (coating layer 107) at their upper surface and along the inner vertical surface walls of the recess 1 1 1 (or rather side walls 106, 106' of the electronic components 101 , 101 ' forming recess 1 1 1 ). The coating layer 107 is patterned by etching or liftoff. When using the etching process, the material 107 is deposited first; then, the photoresist is applied and patterned and the material 107 is etched from the regions not covered by photoresist. Finally, the photoresist is removed.

When lift-off is used, the patterning of the photoresist is done before deposition of the material 107; after depositing material 107, the resist and the material 107 over the photoresist is removed to leave layer 107 where the photoresist had previously been removed before depositing material

1 07.

The embodiment according to step 400 of Figure 4 B is, however, distinct from Figure 4 A in that the coating by coating layer 107 is applied prior to introducing recess 1 1 1 (separating electronic components 101 , 101 ' from each other). The patterning or lift-off process is applied such that recess 1 1 1 is only introduced after the patterning or lift-off step 400 according to FIG. 4 B. Both embodiments of FIG. 4A and 4 B thereafter continue by step 31 1 (of Figure 2) applying the top encapsulating layer 103 to the exposed upper surface and thereby also lining recess 111. Step 400 according to FIG. 4 C is distinct from step 400 of the embodiments of Figures 4 A and 4 B by an altered order of steps. For the embodiment of Figure 4 C steps 310 and 31 1 (of FIG. 2) are performed first and only after step 31 1 (applying the top encapsulation layer 103) the electronic components 101 , 101 ' are coated by coating layer 107. Thus, the embodiment of step 400 according to Figure 4 C allows the coating layer 107 to (partially) overlap the top encapsulating layer 103, in contrast to the embodiments of Figures 4 A and 4 B.

It is common to all of these embodiments of step 400 that they may involve etching or lift-off.

In the etching process of step 400, top coating 107 is applied to the surface of components 101 , 101 '. Subsequently, a photoresist layer is applied using suitable methods, e.g. spin coating, which is optionally baked by applying heat. Thereafter, a mask is applied which defines the desired patterning of the resulting top coating 107, and allows exposing the "masked" photoresistto light. Subsequently, a suitable developer is added which removes the photoresist. In case of positive photoresists, the light-exposed parts are removed. In case of negative photoresists, the non-light exposed parts of the resist are removed. After the "developing step" optional curing or hardening of the resist may be performed by applying heat. Wet or dry etching may follow to selectively remove the parts of top coating 107 which are not covered by the photoresist, while the photoresist-covered parts of top coating 107 are retained. Finally, the remaining resist is removed by stripping in a suitable stripping solution or plasma to yield a top coating 107 which is patterned as defined by the mask.

In the alternative lift-off process for step 400, photoresist is applied onto the top surface of component 101 , 101 ', or onto any other layer which is supposed to support top coating 107, e.g. by spin coating. Optionally, it is baked by applying heat. Subsequently, a mask which defines the desired patterning of the resulting top coating 107 is applied to the photoresist, and the "masked" photoresist is exposed to light. Thereafter, a suitable developer is applied which removes the photoresist. In case of positive photoresists, the light-exposed parts are removed. In case of negative photoresists, the non-light exposed parts of the resist are removed. The "developing step" is followed by optionally curing or hardening the resist by applying heat. Top encapsulation layer 103 (or any other layer which is supposed to partially cover top coating 107) is deposited on the photoresist. Finally, a suitable stripping solution is applied, optionally together with the application of ultra-sound, to lift-off the patterned photoresist together with the covering layer, and to retain the covering layer only where the underlying photoresist was previously removed.

Each of the resulting assemblies 100 shown in Figures 4 A to 4 C may be further processed according to the inventive method, e.g. by continuing the production process by its step 312 (see Figure 2).

Furthermore, the inventive method may include an optional step 500 of providing e.g. electronic traces 108, photodiodes and/or electrodes 109 within the hermetic packaging, e.g. at the top or at the bottom of electronic component 101 , 101 '. That optional step 500 is typically carried when the upper surface of electronic component 101 is exposed and accessible to further modification, e.g. at step 309 or 310. Alternatively, it may be carried out after the outer layers have been applied, e.g. at step 316 or thereafter. That alternative approach is enabled by removing previously applied layer/s or coatings, at least regionwise. Thus, step 500 modifies electronic component 101 . Thereby, electronic traces 108 and/or electrodes 109 may be applied to the surface of electronic components 101 , 101 ', typically underneath top coating 107 and top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a, by any suitable deposition technique, including chemical vapor deposition (CVD), physical vapor deposition, such as e-beam evaporation or (reactive) sputtering, electrochemical deposition and electrodeposition or patterning, including lift-off or etching, as described in more detail below.

Modification of the electronic component 101 by vertically or upward protruding structures (e.g. electrodes, see e.g. FIG. 1 D) may have an impact on the nature of the top encapsulating layer/s 103, 103a and/or coating layer/s 107. They may e.g. exhibit holes interrupting one or more of these layer/s. Preferably, electrodes 109 may e.g. be provided within or extending beyond top coating 107 and/or, additionally or alternatively, within or beyond top encapsulation layer/s 103/103a.

Electrodes 109 may also be introduced only after the provision of the hermetic packaging has been established by locally removing top coating 107 and/or top encapsulation layer/s 103, 103a so that the surface of components 101 , 101 ' is typically completely exposed at the electrode deposition sites. The electrodes 109 on the surface of components 101 , 101 ' may be added, e.g. by depositing a metal or other electrode material layer. First, top coating 107 and/or top encapsulation layer/s 103/103a may be partially removed to generate holes or feedthroughs for forming electrodes 109. Removing may be accomplished by any suitable technique, e.g. by etching. Subsequently, electrode material is applied to top coating 107 and/ or top encapsulation

layer/s 103/103a. The excess electrode material is, e.g. subsequently, removed, for instance by etching or lift-off, such that the electrode material is preferably exclusively retained at the sites of the holes or feedthroughs of top coating 107 and/or top encapsulation layer/s 103/103a, and, optionally, partially overlaps with top coating 107 and/or top encapsulation layer/s 103/103a. Such an embodiment may be envisaged, whenever electrodes 109 shall be larger in diameter than the hole or feedthrough size.

Alternatively, electrodes 109 may be formed by electronic traces 108 underneath top coating 107 and/or top encapsulation layer/s 103/103a. To this end, top coating 107 and/or top encapsulation layer/s 103/103a is/are partially removed, e.g. by etching or lift-off, to form holes or feedthroughs exposing portions of the underlying electronic traces 108.

The foregoing description details certain embodiments of the invention. It will be appreciated, however, that no matter how detailed the foregoing appears in text, the invention may be practiced in many ways. It should be noted that the use of particular terminology when describing certain features or aspects of the invention should not be taken to imply that the terminology is being re-defined herein to be restricted to including any specific characteristics of the features or aspects of the invention with which that terminology is associated.

While the above detailed description has shown, described, and pointed out novel features of the invention as applied to various embodiments, it will be understood that various omissions, substitutions, and changes in the form and details of the device or process illustrated may be made by those skilled in the technology without departing from the spirit of the invention. The scope of the invention is indicated by the appended claims rather than by the foregoing description. All changes which come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are to be embraced within their scope.

ITEMS

An implantable device comprising an electronic component (101 ) encapsulated by a hermetic packaging (10), said packaging comprising a top encapsulation layer (103) and a bottom encapsulation layer (104), wherein top and bottom encapsulation layer (1 03, 104) at least partially overlap so as to form a double layer (105, 105').

Implantable device according to item 1 , wherein the double layer (105, 105') at least partially, more preferably fully covers the side walls (106, 106') of electronic component (101 ).

Implantable device according to item 1 or 2, wherein top and/or the bottom encapsulation layer (103, 104) is/are biocompatible.

Implantable device according to any one of items 1 to 3, wherein top and/or bottom encapsulation layer (103, 104) is/are corrosion-resistant.

Implantable device according to item 3 or 4, wherein top and/or bottom encapsulation layer (103, 104) comprise or consist of metal; ceramic including oxides, nitrides, and carbides, preferably metal oxides, metal nitrides and metal carbides; diamond-like carbon; diamond; glass; polymers; combinations thereof, or combinations or multilayers thereof.

Implantable device according to item 5, wherein said metal is selected from Ti, Pt, stainless steel, titanium-nickel, palladium, niobium, tantalum, combinations or alloys thereof, and multilayers thereof; wherein said ceramic is selected from the group consisting of silicon oxide, silicon nitride, silicon carbide, silicon oxicarbide, titanium carbide, titanium oxide, aluminum oxide, aluminum nitride, zirconium oxide, combinations thereof, and multilayers thereof; and/or said polymer is selected from the group consisting of fluorocarbons, polyurethane, polyether ether ketone (PEEK), silicone, PDMS, parylene, polyimide, polycarbonate, polycarbonate urethane, silicone, silicone-polyester-urethane, durimide (photo-definable polyimide), cyclic olefin polymer (COP), cyclic olefin copolymer (COC), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polyphenylene, polysulfone, polyphenylsulfone, combinations thereof and multilayers thereof.

Implantable device according to any one of the preceding items, wherein the packaging further comprises at least one top coating (107), preferably wherein top coating (107) and the top encapsulation layer (103) at least partially or fully overlap with each other.

Implantable device according to item 7, wherein top coating (107) is biocompatible.

Implantable device according to item 7 or 8, wherein top coating (107) is corrosion resistant.

Implantable device according to any one of items 7 to 9, wherein top coating (107) is transparent.

Implantable device according to any one of items 7 to 10, wherein top coating (107) comprises or consists of a material selected from the group consisting of ceramic; glass including SiC, SiOC; Si02; diamond or diamond like carbon; aluminum oxides; titanium oxides; combinations thereof; and multilayers thereof.

Implantable device according to any one of items 7 to 1 1 , wherein said device, preferably said top coating (107) further comprises electronic traces (108) electronically connected to the electronic component (101 ), said electronic traces (108) preferably forming electrodes within or protruding from top coating (107).

Implantable device according to item 12, wherein said electronic traces form electrodes, which are preferably bio-compatible and corrosion-resistant.

Implantable device according to item 12 or 13, wherein said electronic traces comprise or consist of a material selected from the group consisting of platinum, black/porous platinum, iridium, iridium/platinum, iridium oxide, PEDOT:PSS, titanium nitride, doped diamond or doped diamond like carbon and graphene, and combinations thereof.

Implantable device according to any one of the preceding items, wherein said electronic component (101 ) encapsulated by said hermetic packaging (10) comprises a layer (1 02).

Implantable device according to item 15, wherein layer (102) comprises or consists of ceramics or glass, optionally selected from silicon oxide, optionally obtained by oxidation of a silicon substrate.

Implantable device according to any one of the preceding items, further comprising at least one additional top encapsulation layer (103a) on top of top encapsulation layer (103) and/or at least one additional bottom encapsulation (104a) encapsulating bottom encapsulation layer (104).

Implantable device according to item 1 7, wherein further encapsulation layers (103a, 104a) overlap so as to form at least one additional double layer (105a, 105b, 105c) optionally covering at least partially, more preferably fully, side walls (106, 106') of electronic component (101 ).

Implantable device according to item 1 7 or 18, wherein top and/or bottom encapsulation layer (103, 103', 104, 104') is/are corrosion resistant and optionally bio-compatible.

Implantable device according to any one of items 1 7 to 1 9, wherein the at least one additional top and/or bottom encapsulation layer(s) (103a, 104a) is/are biocompatible and optionally corrosion-resistant.

Implantable device according to any one of the preceding items, wherein top and/or bottom encapsulation layers (103, 104) and/or optionally further top and/or bottom encapsulation layers (103a, 104a) comprise or consist of the same or a different material.

An implantable system comprising at least one packaged device according to any of items 1 to 21 .

A method for packaging an implantable device, the method comprising

providing at least one electronic component (101 ) on a substrate (1 10);

applying at least one top encapsulation layer (103, 103') to electronic component (101 , 101 '); and

applying at least one bottom encapsulation layer (104, 104') to electronic component (101 , 101 ');

wherein the top and bottom encapsulation layer (103, 103', 104, 104') at least partially overlap so as to form a double layer (105, 105', 105a, 105b, 105c).

A method for packaging an implantable device, said method comprising the steps of:

providing an assembly (100) of at least one, preferably a plurality of electronic components (101 , 101 ') spaced apart from each other on a substrate (1 10), wherein adjacent electronic components (101 , 101 ') and substrate (1 10) define recess (1 1 1 ) in between electronic components (101 , 101 ');

applying at least one top encapsulation layer (103, 103') to assembly (100), thereby coating electronic components (101 , 101 ') and lining recess (1 1 1 );

applying a removable layer (1 12) to assembly (100);

removing removable layer (1 12), thereby leaving a residual amount of removable layer (1 12) within lined recess (1 1 1 );

preferably upending assembly (100);

removing (i) substrate (1 10), (ii) top encapsulation layer (103) and (iii) residual amount of removable layer (1 12) from the assembly's bottom side; and

applying at least one bottom encapsulation layer (104, 104') to assembly (100), thereby preferably coating electronic components (101 , 101 ') and recess (11 1 ),

wherein the top and second bottom encapsulation layer (103, 103', 104, 104') are applied so as to at least partially overlap and forming a double layer (105, 105').

The method according to item 23 or 24, wherein the double layer (105, 105') is provided so as to at least partially, more preferably fully cover the electronic component's side walls (106, 106').

The method according to any one of items 23 to 25, further comprising a step of providing a top coating (107) by

(a) applying a top coating (107), preferably as defined in any one of the preceding items, to the top side of electronic component (101 , 101 ') (b) partially removing top coating (107) (c) applying at least one top encapsulation layer (103, 103'), preferably as defined in any one of the preceding items, to the electronic component (101 , 101 '), such that top coating (107) and encapsulation layer(s) (103, 103') preferably at least partially overlap with each other;

or

(a') applying at least one top encapsulation layer(s) (103, 103'), preferably as defined in any one of the preceding items, to electronic component (101 , 10 ), (b') partially removing top encapsulation layer(s) (103, 103') from electronic component (101 , 101 ')/ (c') applying a top coating (107), preferably as defined in any one of the preceding items, to electronic component (101 , 101 '), such that top coating (107) and encapsulation iayer(s) (103, 103') preferably at least partially overlap with each other.

The method according to item 26, wherein step (2) includes partially removing top coating (107) or top encapsulation layer(s) (103, 103') by any chemical or physical process, preferably wet or dry etching and/or lift-off.

The method according to item 26 or 27, wherein top coating (107) is applied by deposition, including chemical vapor deposition (CVD), including PECVD, or physical vapor deposition (PVD), or atomic layer deposition (ALD) or underlying layer oxidation.

The method according to any one of items 23 to 28, further comprising a step of providing electronic traces (108) and/or electrodes (109), preferably within top coating (107), by deposition, including physical vapor deposition or electrodeposition, and/or patterning, including lift-off or etching.

The method according to any one of items 24 to 29, further comprising prior to step (iv) a step of attaching the assembly's top side to a temporary carrier (1 13).

The method according to any one of items 24 to 30, wherein the substrate (1 10), top encapsulation layer (103) and/or removable layer (1 12) are removed by means each independently selected from physical and chemical means, including grinding, etching and/or stripping.

The method according to any one of items 23 to 31 , wherein top and/or bottom encapsulation layer (103, 104) are biocompatible.

The method according to any one of items 23 to 32, wherein top and/or bottom encapsulation layer (103, 103a, 104, 104a) are corrosion-resistant.

The method according to any one of items 23 to 33, wherein top and/or the bottom encapsulation layer (103, 103a, 104, 104a) comprise or consist of a material optionally selected from a metal, including titanium, platinum, stainless steel, titanium-nickel, palladium, niobium, tantalum, alloys and multilayers thereof; a ceramic, including metal oxides, metal nitrides, and metal carbides such as silicon oxide, silicon nitride, silicon carbide, silicon oxicarbide, titanium carbide, aluminum oxide, aluminum nitride, zirconium oxide and multilayers thereof; diamond-like carbon; diamond; glass; low permeability and/or dense(specification!) polymers, including fluorocarbons, polyurethane, PEEK, silicone, PDMS, parylene, polyimide; or multilayers thereof.

The method according to any one of items 25 to 34, wherein removable layer (1 12) comprises or consists of a material selected from a polymeric material, preferably a resin, more preferably a photosensitive resin, and a dissolvable polymeric material.

The method according to any one of items 26 to 35, wherein top coating (107) is biocompatible.

The method according to any one of items 26 to 36, wherein top coating (107) is corrosion-resistant.

The method according to any one of items 26 to 37, wherein top coating (107) is transparent.

The method according to any one of items 26 to 38, wherein top coating (107) comprises or consists of a material selected from ceramics; glass, including PECVD SiC, SiOC; Si0 ; diamond or diamond like carbon; aluminum oxides; titanium oxides; or multilayers thereof.