by Denise Rael, FlexTech Alliance
June 8, 2011 – Emerging technology and a developing infrastructure for printed electronics is enabling circuitry that is flexible, conformable, and inexpensive to mass-produce. FlexTech Alliance has identified, funded, and directed advanced development in the flexible and printed electronics infrastructure, paving the way for the practical manufacture of a variety of low-cost applications such as electronic packaging, ID tags, and wide-area lighting panels.
Printed electronics include a set of consumer markets where printed logic and memory will be required. The size and cost of fully printed systems is set to challenge silicon-based technologies in ultra-high-volume distributed applications. To address this issue, Norwegian firm ThinFilm Electronics produces rewritable memory tags manufactured using full roll-to-roll (R2R) printing. Printed non-volatile RAM (NVRAM), when combined with printed transistor elements, serves as the basis of a new generation of cheap, disposable, and highly ubiquitous electronic devices. The company is working with major toy and game companies and has established high-volume manufacturing to deliver millions of tags per month.
In other commercial development, a new method for fabricating printed semiconductors, developed by NthDegree Technologies, allows a standard high-speed printing press to print conductive ink on to paper, plastic, or other substrate materials. Printed semiconductors made with these inks reduce the cost of producing semiconductor-based devices while creating innovative conformable products. Wide-area lighting is currently being produced with this technology by means of a light-emitting diode (LED) "ink". This LED ink is being used to print area lighting that is converted into a flat panel to replace fluorescent tube fixtures.
These latest developments in printed electronics materials, tools and processes, including LED lighting and printed memory, will be discussed and demonstrated at the Extreme Electronics TechXpot session "Printed electronics: Beyond R&D to real-deal technologies," presented by the FlexTech Alliance at SEMICON West, July 14, 2011. For more information about FlexTech Alliance visit www.flextech.org.