How can print service providers (PSPs) take advantage of the growing market for radio-frequency identification (RFID) and printed electronics? Prior to 2012, the cumulative number of RFID tags sold over the past 65 years was 15.1 billion. Some 20 percent of those were sold in 2011, according to...
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Last December in Santa Clara, CA, more than 120 exhibitors attended IDTechEx’s ninth annual international Printed Electronics USA 2012 show. And at drupa last spring in Germany, a theme world within the show’s innovation park and a conference day in the drupa cube both covered PE. In addition, related products from some 30 exhibitors were presented, including the world premier of the 26-foot-long mircoFlex printing machine by 3D-Micromac. A range of tiny electronic functions can be printed on it, such as batteries, RFID labels, scrollable displays, and flexible solar cells. Higher throughput at a lower price means that once-expensive prototypes are becoming progressively cheaper, bringing commercial opportunities within the grasp of a growing number of providers.
Coatema presented a production plant for printed electronics with its Smartcoater machine. Its five individual modules include the systems necessary to produce all the coats for an electronically printed product, meaning that no pre- or post-processing is required. The Altana Group (umbrella brand for Elantas, Eckart, Byk and Actega) exhibited its developments in functional ink, as did Novacentrix, which also offered equipment for curing printed electronics products. Platingtech showed its printed textiles functions and a new printing plate for the screen printing of printed electronics.
The Organic Electronics Saxony (OES) organization also was represented at the quadrennial trade fair in Dusseldorf. Three founding members of the OES received the German Future Award in 2011 for their developments in printed displays, printed lighting, and printed photovoltaic. Ynvisible exhibited its latest developments in electrochromic displays. Finally, COLAE InnovationLab GmbH presened the work by its leading-edge cluster Forum Organic Electronics, whose members include 25 companies, universities, and research institutes from the metropolitan region of Rhine-Neckar.
“We showed a number of applications at drupa, which have resulted from collaboration with our international member companies: from interactive books, to intelligent packaging, to sensors and displays and flexible solar cells,” said Klaus Hecker, PhD and managing director of OE-A (Organic and Printed Electronics Association) within the German engineering federation VDMA, which was a cooperation partner for the theme world. Interested visitors received a comprehensive industry guide on printed electronics and a credit card sized energy self-sufficient torch, which includes a thin film battery, alongside a printed solar cell and circuit board.
Then in late August 2012, Komori entered the market by launching its PEPIO offset gravure press line designed for the manufacture of printed electronics (PE). With its long history in the design and development of web and sheetfed offset presses, as well as high-precision intaglio printing technologies for the securities and currency markets, the design of specialty flatbed and roll-to-roll gravure presses for the PE market was the next logical addition to the Komori press line, the manufacturer says.
The PEPIO F20 is a flatbed gravure offset press designed for the manufacture of touch panels. The target substrates are glass and film. The F20 is a high-precision printing press that integrates Komori’s latest technologies. The press produces, through gravure-offset printing, a very fine line width of L/S=30/30 m or less, which meets the narrow bezel requirement of projected capacitive touch panels. This achievement, which previously could not be produced through the printing process, will be a major contribution to the development of printed electronics, Komori said.
The PEPIO R20 model is a continuous roll-to-roll gravure offset press aimed at next-generation high productivity in printing fine lines. The target substrate is roll film. While the target market of this press is the same as the F20, it enables printing of fine lines with a line width of 50 m or less with high productivity. Because the R20 is a roll-to-roll type machine that prints on film, it uses the Komori Smart Alignment System and a center position control system to ensure high-precision position alignment.