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Darmstadt University, Heidelberg Extend 'Functional Printing' Research Program

August 17, 2010
HEIDELBERG, GERMANY—08/17/2010—The Institute for Printing Presses and Printing Methods (IDD) at Darmstadt University of Technology and Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg) are extending their joint research program till 2012. The two partners have been working on a "functional printing" development project since 2007.

The main aim of the project is to develop new applications for the print media industry. This involves devising new surface-finishing technologies that enable print shops—and packaging printers in particular—to stand out from the crowd. "Functional" here means properties that enhance the print medium, such as new, decorative, visual, electrical and electronic functional characteristics.

The first three years of collaboration successfully culminated in predevelopment work for new decorative elements and simple display elements known as demonstrators. Examples include display elements based on electroluminescence or thermochrome inks that can be used for special effects on packaging and a display stand with light effects for use at the point of sale.

"Our motivation is based on developing a feel for what the market of the future needs and investigating this using feasibility studies," explains Manfred Jurkewitz, Head of Research and Development at Heidelberg.

Research work is currently devoted to new applications for the print media industry. The first examples are promising and include effects with structural coating and special optical effects in 3D.

"We are looking to develop further visual effects and applications that lie between the print applications of today and organic electronics applications of the future," says Professor Edgar Dörsam, Director of the IDD, describing the joint research.

Heidelberg is providing the relevant printing technology for the project—a Gallus RCS 330-HD rotary press. The press is tailored to development needs and has been configured accordingly. It has four printing stations and four printing processes - flexographic, screen, offset and gravure. The printing units for the individual processes are separate modules that can be operated in every position of the printing stations. The sequence of processes is therefore freely configurable and can thus be adapted to numerous requirements for new applications. Space for further equipment such as dryers and special measuring technology is available between the individual printing stations.

"The applications we're developing on this modular platform are then transferred to the Heidelberg sheetfed press sector to ensure our Speedmaster customers can also benefit from them," explains Dr. Martin Schmitt-Lewen, project manager at Heidelberg for the cooperation project with the IDD.

Applications outside the print media environment
Further applications are possible outside the print media sector. This applies in particular to the up-and-coming area of organic electronics. The fields for applications here are even wider and more varied. Examples include organic photovoltaics, OLED (organic light emitting diode) systems for displays and illumination, sensor technology, and applications relating to electrical/electronic circuits with transistors, for instance.

These topics are being covered by Heidelberg in a further research project that is also being conducted in partnership with the IDD and is backed by a large research association publicly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Heidelberg's role, in collaboration with the IDD, is cross-functional, spanning various applications and including the development of (print) processes for thin layers. This is putting the development of "functional printing" on an even broader footing and may subsequently also open up new areas of application outside the print media world.

This activity, which aims at developing new processes for manufacturing organic electronics, is a key project in the "Organic Electronics Forum" cluster of excellence. This is a cooperation network of three DAX companies, eight large international enterprises, five SMEs, and eleven research institutes and institutions of higher education, including two elite universities.

The objectives of the cluster of excellence are to create a world-beating research, development, and production site for organic electronics, one of the most attractive locations for current and future specialists, and the world's leading center of innovation for knowledge transfer and company startups. The 27 enterprises, institutions of higher education, and research institutes are working together on the research projects, which are receiving funding from the BMBF to the tune of EUR 40 million, in the future technology of organic electronics.
 

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