The concept of printed electronics - producing electronic devices through simple and cheap, roll-to-roll production processes - is straightforward, despite the wide variety of technologies and techniques it encompasses.
This is what has allowed printed electronics to capture the imaginations of many different industries. Its sheer versatility allows developers and product designers to consider new possibilities based on electronic functionality.
The essential premise of adding electronics as inks to novel substrates generated ideas of adding everything, from memory and displays to energy harvesting components, to items as varied as packages, clothes, vehicles, and building infrastructure.
While much of the knowledge - and, indeed, some of the processes - of traditional printing tools could be used in the plastic electronics industry, there is obviously much more to realising this concept than simply formulating inks and printing off rolls of electronics (though that is not to say such a thing is beyond the realms of possibility). It is clear from the status of the current printed electronics industry that reliable, scalable print approaches are not well established yet.
Integrators of plastic electronic technologies view being able to print electronics as an enabler, without wanting to be overly concerned with the technical details of how such a thing is made possible. Printed electronics developers are now looking at the various print processes available and attempting to identify the best processes for commercially scalable products. Materials and ink suppliers need to be aware of the needs of different processes. Where a business is looking to supply a complete component or layer, the most suitable process for delivering that device at low cost and with capacity for increasing volume can be chosen.
Yet most printed electronics businesses need to be aware that other processes may make sense for other components - and integration of these various elements, in the long-term, may be based on a combination of steps. Yet the technology is there, and appears to be heading in the right direction, with the right awareness, it may just take a bit of time to achieve.
This article makes up part of Plugged in - printing, and appears in full in Volume 4, issue 6 of +Plastic Electronics magazine. Subscribe today read this article, along with more high-value, exclusive content.
Documents and links
Subscribe to +Plastic Electronics magazine
Subscribe to +Plastic Electronics magazine, published six times a year, for just £100/€110/$160. Find out more here
What's in the latest issue of +Plastic Electroncs? Click here to find out
About +Plastic Electronics magazine
Your source of the latest news on the business and market strategies for organic and printable electronics, is available for just £95 for a complete volume