18 March 2012 Commercial

Testing times for electronics printing as unit opens in Finland

The opportunities for printing in the production of electronics and smart forms of labelling and packaging are being created in a pilot factory in Scandinavia

The EU is providing funds for research into printed electronics

The EU is providing funds for research into printed electronics

THE FINNS HAVE OPENED THE FIRST TEST FACTORY for producing printed electronics as part of the the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in Oulu. The aim is to help move production of printed electronics from the lab into full commercial production.

The set up includes reelfed presses which will enable customers to produce sizeable batches of printed electronics for use as sensors, smart labels, packaging and energy generation. It’s a market that has been estimated will be worth €250 billion across Europe in 15 years.

THE PRINTOCENT PILOT FACTORY FOR PRINTED Intelligence is reckoned to be two years ahead of any similar set up in the world. The key roll to roll press, a modular modified label machine, will offer “unique manufacturing performance to integrate intelligence into everyday consumables and the living environment”.

The idea is to accelerate the development of applications that make use of printed electronics by providing a facility which can produce larger test batches than a laboratory and without the expense and risk of building a dedicated production line, what VTT calls a “milestone between lab and fab”.

AMONG APPLICATIONS FOR PRINTED ELECTRONICS which should be produceable using conventional printing equipment, are sensors for medical diagnostics or health and safety applications, printed solar panels and other energy sources, smart packaging and anti-counterfeiting labels, promotional and informational labels providing interactivity to consumers and more “killer applications that have yet to be developed”.

The opening was attended by companies from across the world, 30 of whom presented papers at an associated conference. Among these was Dr David Fyfe, director of IDTechEx, the UK’s research institute promoting the development and use of printed electronics. It has been helping to develop applications in RFID, printed batteries, smart packaging and printed sensors through devising and funding feasibility studies.

ACCORDING TO IDTECHEX, THERE ARE FOUR main areas where printed electronics are currently in widespread use: OLED displays used in smart phones, through the majority are not currently printed; e-paper materials, where the development emphasis is on creating colour displays; conductive inks for printing antennas, smart packaging and circuitry; and potentially in photovoltaics, currently not produced using printing equipment.

The UK’s equivalent is at PragmatIC Printing in Redcar where a pilot line for printed electronics is being established during this year and is scheduled to start up in Q4. A series of workshops about the potential of printable electronics arranged between the BPIF and the Centre for Process Innovaton has begun with the first at Warrington last week being fully booked. Other events are in London, March 27; Coventry; March 29 and Sedgefield, April 17.

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The EU is providing funds for research into printed electronics

The EU is providing funds for research into printed electronics