16 July 2012 Events

The case for printed electronics begins to build

For many years a huge opportunity for print in producing electronics has been promised, now that potential is maturing.

The Nilpeter is in place for proof of concept testing.

The Nilpeter is in place for proof of concept testing.

THE CENTRE FOR PROCESS INNOVATION IS LOOKING for new projects as interest in the feasibility and use of printed electronics begins to pick up. The organisation has completed a £2m development at the National Printable Electronics Centre in Sedgefield which will be used to create small batches of printed sensors and promotional items to prove production is possible before a company commits to a long term investment.

The centre says it has a number of projects lined up for point of sale material, toys, games, novelty items, smart packaging and intelligent sensors which will use its 420mm wide Nilpeter MO4/FA4 UV web press. This can print on a wide range of materials using a diverse range of print techniques.

THERE HAVE BEEN NUMEROUS PREDICTIONS FOR rapid growth in printed electronics, beginning with RFID chips and leading to suggestions last week that printed electronics could be used in plain pack tobacco cartons where heat sensitive inks reveal the cigarette brand in the smoker’s hand. However there has been a stubborn gap between the idea and large scale production. The production of medical sensors to detect the presence of specific chemicals is possible using litho presses for example, but this has not progressed to commercial applications.

It is hoped that the Interactive Smart System Line can ease the transition from concept to commercial reality. The line will be available for testing by designers, brand owners, ink companies, printers and similar. Programme manager Bela Green says: “As an open access facility the ISS line represents an excellent opportunity for clients to become familiar with the technology before being trained on how to implement it. Alternatively, they can utilise the expertise that CPI has on offer and allow us to lead on projects – it is a flexible set-up that can significantly benefit companies looking to capitalise on printable electronics.”

EVIDENCE THAT INTEREST IN PRINTED ELECTRONICS is gaining traction comes with a deal between PragmatIC in Cambridge and ITW Foils in the US. Under the terms of the deal ITW will develop and sell novel printed applications using the PragmatIC technology. ITW produces a wide range of decorative foils and sees the potential in introducing interactivity and product verification through the foil carriers.

Elsewhere US flexible packaging provider Bemis has struck a deal with Thin Film Electronics, a US company producing printable electronics in which it will create a temperature sensitive packaging material which can also communicate wirelessly to be used in perishable food, consumer and healthcare packaging. “Intelligent packaging is an emerging technology with many potential intersections with Bemis’ flexible packaging and pressure sensitive materials business segments,” says Henry Theisen, Bemis president and chief executive officer.