Imagine flicking through the pages of a magazine and being able to press the page and “like” the story on Facebook. Or driving past a wall of band posters that stream songs to your mobile phone. Pretty amazing huh?! Well this is the way we are headed with printed electronics technology. Read on and learn what all the excitement is about.
What is printed electronics?
Printed electronics is the printing of the electronic circuit and its components on more mundane surfaces, like paper and textiles. The equipments used are common printers and there are no out of the ordinary techniques if compared to usual paper or press printing processes. What makes the printed electronic process different is the ink.
Electronic inks are a relatively new development. They are used to print the components of the electronic circuit: the thin film transistors and tiny 2 mm wide batteries for example. The idea of printed electronics is not a new one, but the recent advances in various fields like conductive ink and flexible printing material means that people can take the concept and run with it.
Why choose printed electronics?
Imagine if you can incorporate electronics into everyday graphics and text. You can put a ‘tweet” button on a book or a poster. You can print an advertisement flyer that emails people event details. Singing get-well card? Too bulky and too delicate; printed electronics leaves that technology in the dust of the last millennium.
Scott White, CEO of Cambridge firm Pragmatic Printing states, “Printed electronics have an advantage in terms of robustness as the components are fundamentally flexible, so they withstand handling more than conventional electronics.”
In addition, printed electronics cost lower, are more attractive, have more flexibility of use, and are easier to produce than standard electronic circuits.
Advances of printed electronics
The mass media and promotional businesses are certainly keeping their eye on any advancements in printed electronics. There are many ingenious uses for engaging and interacting with people in marketing and more.
High volume printing
Unlike many new technological advances, printed electronics can be done using old standard heavy press printing procedures. That means the equipment for creating printed electronic materials is already in place and available everywhere, making printing electronic circuits in high volumes easy. Novalia is one of the companies looking into how printed electronics can be integrated into existing printer processes.
Paper and inks
There are a number of paper companies that are developing paper products that would be more favorable to the special conductive inks used in printed electronics. While printing an electronic circuit on normal everyday paper is certainly possible, there are many ink and paper combinations that may be more effective.
Printed electronics technology is extremely flexible. Also, the technologies that support it are already progressing at a rather speedy pace. There are new inks, paper, new tech like moisture and temperature sensors, and a whole lot of exciting new ideas cropping up. There is lots more that designers can play with and invent. While not exactly available to the public yet, with the pace that it’s going, it would be no surprise if in two or three years to see on the market a magazine with the interactive abilities of an iPad.