Pragmatic Printing has received a £18 million funding injection from a consortium that includes label materials provider Avery Dennison.
The funds will enable the Cambridge tech company to accelerate development of its FlexLogic fab in a box which promises to produce low cost integrated circuits at a fraction of the cost of using current technology and in a unit that does not need the ultra clean conditions that are needed by existing integrated circuit producers.
Avery Dennison sees the investment as an opportunity to build on existing RFID inlay manufacturing capabilities. These are used to add intelligence to labels and packaging for tracking or marketing purposes. So far the cost of such RFIDs has limited their use.
Francisco Melo, VP and general manager for Global RFID at Avery Dennison, says: “With Pragmatic's technology there is the potential to extend the use of unique item level digital identities to improve consumer experiences in a number of new segments, such as fast moving consumer goods.”
Pragmatic has shown that it is capable of printing circuits that are thinner than a human hair and placing transistors with a similar degree of accuracy. This has been using the facilities at the Centre for Process Innovation at Sedgefield, where the materials have to be moved between processes.
It has designed a “fab in a box” unit called FlexLogic which will deliver the same capability in a single unit and so achieve much higher volumes. The company received £1.6 million funding to develop the pilot machines from the EU’s Horizon 2020 project in August.
Now the interest from Avery Dennison and others will accelerate the commercial introduction of this technology. “We need to put in place our production capability and to scale up,” says Pragmatic CEO Scott White. “The way we have designed the equipment will enable us to offer the equipment to printers. We will be integrating all the processes needed to create integrated circuitry into a single piece of equipment which can become part of the normal packaging or label production process.”
Previously he says a conventional silicon fabrication plant will represent a $1 billion investment, not something to be undertaken lightly.
The first of the FlexLogic units will be ready for installation in 2017 says White with commercial production beginning a year later. “We know there is demand for very high volumes of chips,” he adds.
The announcement will also sharpen the focus on printed electronics and open the way for more discussion about how packaging can become integrated into the Internet of Things. In the short term Pragmatic will test the feasibility of any projects using the CPI facilities, albeit in relatively low numbers.
The promise however is that the fab in a box technology can dramatically cut the cost of bringing intelligence to packaging, something that has held back adoption of RFIDs and other chips. Avery Dennison’s involvement will open the door to a much wider audience.
PragmatIC has received an injection of funding to allow it to accelerate development of FlexLogIC, its "fab in a box" means of producing high volumes of printed circuits at a fraction of the cost of conventional methods.