This is Printed Electronics
New electronic materials, such as electric conductors and semiconductors in plastic (polymers), have made it possible to produce electronic “ink”. This ink can be used to draw electronic components and circuits on paper or plastic. The process can be automated by using printers (e.g. inkjet printers) or printing presses, which allow for the mass production of electronics known as Printed Electronics. The field is undergoing rapid development with regard to research and commercialisation, and PEA is working diligently to drive the development forward. Research and development is carried out in Norrköping, at Linköping University and at Acreo.
New Production Technology – New Possibilities
The technology platform is built from components such as transistors, conductors, resistors, displays, buttons, batteries and antennas. All these components will be able to be printed on, for example, next generation packaging in the same way as four-colour printing is performed today. Well-known printing methods are used, such as screen printing, flexography, offset printing, rotogravure printing and inkjet printing. Printing can be performed on separate sheets or by means of roll-to-roll processing (R2R). In comparison to conventional electronics production, this provides a wealth of new possibilities, including inexpensive mass production, electronics on flexible substrates, rapid prototyping in small series, and it is able to reduce investment costs. Furthermore, this technology has huge potential for eco-friendly production.
A Field Undergoing Rapid Development
Printed electronics is a field undergoing rapid development from research to production and end-products. Global players include research institutes, producers and potential end-users. Numerous predictions have been made that certain operational areas will experience massive market volumes, primarily within FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), and postal and distribution services.
Within the framework for PEA, focus is being directed towards product development and market-adaptation in the following areas:
Packaging that communicates with consumers. Can contain, for example, date labelling, additional information about the product and, possibly in the future, sensors which describe the nature and quality of the contents.
Sensors in Structures
Construction materials that are able to detect moisture, temperature and, in the not too distant future, even mildew and other damage. The technology provides superior quality in materials and enhanced safety and peace of mind for the individual.
Printed Solar Cells on Paper and Plastic
Owing to its light weight, potential for printing on large surfaces and the inexpensive process (in comparison to how current solar cells are manufactured), the technology will revolutionise the perception of solar energy.
There is an ever-growing need for authentication in a number of areas. An example of this is healthcare, where the quality and age of medication is a matter of life or death. The technology is also being tested on various types of financial securities, such as banknotes.
The Ink Is Leading The Development
Car battery testers, printed labels that communicate with smartphones via the internet, dynamic QR codes that change depending on the circumstances. None of these would work if electronic ink did not exist; a medium that replaces printing press ink and is also electrically conductive.
Save Energy and Save the Environment
50 million tonnes of electronic waste are generated globally each year – and that figure is growing. Because modern electronics often have short lifespans, this has become an urgent, unchecked problem worldwide. Organic electronics can steer development in a sustainable direction, by utilising carbon-based materials instead of rare earth elements (REE) for example, or by employing manufacturing methods that require less energy than current silicon-based methods.