Industry Trio Taking Printed Electronics Research Project into Industrial-Scale Phase
HEIDELBERG, GERMANY—August 2, 2012—BASF, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg), and TU Darmstadt are pleased with the results of the first phase of their joint “Nanostructuring and plastic electronics print platform” (NanoPEP) research project and have agreed to continue the work. Researchers at the participating companies have been working on nano-based functional materials and the related innovative printing methods for processing these since summer 2009.
The resulting applications in the field of organic electronics are based on conductive polymers and on smaller molecules of organic chemistry and are regarded as important technologies of the future offering considerable economic potential. Their areas of application extend from organic circuits and storage devices to photovoltaics and organic LEDs.
This cross-sector project is one of the heavyweight projects conducted by the Leading-Edge Cluster “Forum Organic Electronics,” which is promoted by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and headquartered in the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region. Its links with other members of the cluster active in areas such as OLEDs, solar cells, and printed circuits give it access to a broad range of technologies for developing possible applications.
First functional elements produced under laboratory conditions
Significant progress has already been made in the initial project phase. A rotary printing press based on the Gallus RCS 330 provided the platform for this. Heidelberg has a 30-percent holding in the Swiss Gallus Group.
Initial functional elements have already been produced under laboratory conditions in the cluster's clean room using modified printing methods. The task of transferring these processes to an industrial scale over the next two years is the primary purpose of the NanoPEP2 follow-up project commenced in 2012.
In addition to the ongoing development of the nano-structured materials and the associated printing methods, practical demonstrators will be used to show the functionality of the printed components. These can take the form, for example, of flexible OLEDs or solar cells produced in the cluster's joint clean room.
The printing press plays a key role in this work. It serves as the platform for modified or completely new printing or coating units and thus as an integrator for the newly developed processes. The demands placed on the printing methods are very high. Being just a few nanometers thick, the printed layers must be extremely homogeneous and free of flaws.
To transfer these highly complex printing processes to a production scale, it is vital to precisely understand the processes that take place in a printing unit itself. Consequently, the Institute for Printing Presses and Printing Methods (IDD) at Technische Universit Darmstadt is working on a model for defining the key production parameters. The researchers are also examining the specific physical mechanisms that can lead to inhomogeneities in the printed organic semiconductor and dielectric layers and thus to the failure of the subsequent product.
Researchers at BASF work on innovative hybrid materials
Printable organic electronics requires entirely new materials, which are developed by BASF experts in the project field of nano-structuring. Specially designed nanoparticles are used as building blocks for functional materials which are built by new process technologies in a tool-box-like system. In a subsequent step, these materials are processed into printable suspensions and tested by the project partners. The researchers rely on innovative hybrid materials consisting of inorganic and organic components allowing for perfect electronic functionality in the printed film.
Over the past three years, new integrated production processes for innovative hybrid materials have been developed in order to avoid intermediate process steps such as stabilization of the materials. The plants constructed for this purpose are able to produce the materials required for the printing tests on a kilogram scale.
In parallel, BASF researchers are developing printable suspensions for organic electronics that can be processed at low temperatures. Again, this is a challenge for material development because the components and their interaction have to be completely newly adjusted to the printing conditions. These materials should enable the production of components on inexpensive flexible polymer foils using the roll-to-roll printing method.
About the Leading-Edge Cluster
The Leading-Edge Cluster “Forum Organic Electronics” is a cooperative network which currently consists of three DAX-listed companies, eight international corporations, five mid-sized companies and eleven research institutes and universities, including two elite universities. The cluster’s goals include achieving the position of international leader as a location for research, development, and production in organic electronics, creating one of the most attractive locations for young researchers, specialists, and managers, and establishing the world’s leading innovation center for knowledge transfer and company start-ups. The 27 companies, universities, and research institutes work jointly on the research projects in the cutting-edge field of organic electronics which are funded by the BMBF to the value of €40 million.
BASF is the world's leading chemical company: The Chemical Company. Its portfolio ranges from chemicals, plastics, performance products, and crop protection products to oil and gas. We combine economic success, social responsibility, and environmental protection. Through science and innovation we enable our customers in almost all industries to meet the current and future needs of society.
Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg) is the world's leading solution provider in the print media industry. All over the world, the name Heidelberg is synonymous with state-of-the art technology, top quality, and closeness to the customer. The group's core business covers the whole value-added and process chain with equipment and services for the the sheetfed offset sector as well as digital print solutions. External contract manufacturing—primarily for customers in other sectors of mechanical engineering and the energy industry—is also growing in importance.
About the IDD
The Institute for Printing Presses and Printing Methods (IDD) is part of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Darmstadt University of Technology. It pursues research in the fields of mechanical engineering, process engineering, and economic sciences, supporting industry as a whole in keeping pace with the rapid developments in printing press construction and the print media. One of its main areas of activity is functional printing. It is locating and expanding the boundaries of printing technology to enable the latter technology to be used as a mass production method for electronics.