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Printed Electronics Roadmap Leads in New Directions

February 18, 2011

Many users are developers now
It is little wonder that some large organizations are now both developers and users of printed electronics, including the U.S. Army, which sees scope for radically new components made possible with printed electronics. That even includes printing energy harvesting layers such as the VirginiaTech CEHMS piezoelectric layers that convert movement into electricity.

Basic building blocks
In the new world of multilayer electronic printing, it is best not to worry too much about where electronics begins and electrics ends: they are merging. However, making basic building blocks such as timers and energy harvesting with storage will be important. Consider the European FACESS project depositing a complete photovoltaic, power conversion and storage unit on a single plastic film. The Bayer of Germany breakthrough in combining “fidelity haptics” and light management with their polycarbonate film is also relevant here. DuPont Teijin of the USA is leader in the specialist polyester films used in other printed electronics.      

New semiconductors
Many developers in East Asia now see organic transistors improving in cost and performance too slowly to be the best solution for many high frequency circuits in consumer goods. For display backplanes, zinc oxide based semiconductors such as InGaZnO are prioritised for commercialisation about two years after organic ones. A precursor of this was the 40 inch inkjet printed OLED television using RF sputtered zinc oxide backplane transistors that Samsung demonstrated last year.

The printed manganese dioxide zinc batteries from Blue Spark are being successfully incorporated into other printing processes. On the other hand, Samsung now has the world’s first 4.8 inch full colour active matrix PDLC display driven by printed organic transistors on a plastic substrate. Indeed, Thinfilm of Norway is well ahead with printed memory by depositing superior organic ferroelectrics and progressing to complete circuits.

The introduction of printable copper by several companies last year, including Novacentrix and intinsiq, has led to a race to replace silver inks, with their price hikes, in some applications such as antennas and transistor electrodes and interconnects. The alternative approach of using less silver by applying nano silver inks is also gaining traction. Much further down the line are CNT, graphene and other conductors and semiconductors offering even better performance. Meanwhile, Heraeus is leader in organic transparent conductive inks and allied products with its Clevios brand.

Change in deposition machinery
As for deposition, screen and inkjet printing are the most widely deployed for printed electronics but flexo and gravure and occasionally fast letterpress are now encountered. Sometimes, using regular printing machines with minimal modification is in prospect. For example, organic photovoltaics and OLEDs are relatively straightforward to print but they need very good barrier sealants against oxygen and water ingress. Fortunately companies such as Henkel have new advances in this area.

Unique event
So how can one learn more about this tsunami wave of progress and meet the key people? The answer is simple. All the above companies are presenting or exhibiting at the world’s leading event on the subject “Printed Electronics Europe” in Düsseldorf Germany on April 5-6 ( Add to that five presentations on printing electronics onto paper, for instance, and a large number on the new flexible photovoltaics.

There will be optional masterclasses and visits to centres of excellence in the subject on the day before and the day after the two day conference and exhibition. With an awards dinner and many other opportunities to network, free information and working samples, the event will be even more unmissable this year. See for details.

For information on Printed Electronics & Photovoltaics Europe 2011 or to become a media partner, please contact Cara Harrington at
By Raghu Das, CEO, IDTechEx

Printed Electronics & Photovoltaics USA 2011 | Nov 30-Dec 1 | Santa Clara, CA |




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