Printed electronics: system integration paves the way for innovative applications



LOPE-C, the leading international event for printed electronics, reflects the increasing attractiveness of organic electronics. Due to the continuous improvement in printing and production processes in conjunction with new materials, a diverse range of applications is now emerging. Exhibitor PolyIC will be showing how flat sensor-capacitive touch keys can be made from transparent conductive films, for use in white goods and automobiles. Hybrid solutions: smart ecosystems LOPE-C 2013 will focus on operational integrated system solutions, and is aimed at industrial end-users. Printed electronics complements classical silicon microelectronics in hybrid systems with inexpensive memories, flexible displays and printed batteries. A recent example of the systemic integration of different fields of technology into a sealed "ecosystem" compatible with the intended application is being shown by Acreo Swedish ICT with its hybrid solutions such as the printed biosensor platform. The mobile blood sugar meter is a unique and cost-effective biosensor concept and works self-sufficiently: power supply, display and glucose sensor are printed onto a flexible polymer. Norwegian company Thinfilm is demonstrating its Thinfilm Memory, another of the highlights of LOPE-C 2013: forgery-proof identification labels, which feature an electronic signature. Thinfilm Memory labels offer effective brand protection, since the signals can be changed at any time. The intelligent labels are based on Thinfilm's non-volatile printed memories. In close cooperation with system designers THIEME, Luxembourg-based manufacturer IEE (International Electronics & Engineering) has designed a seat sensor for the car industry, which adjusts the trigger mechanism for the air bag to the required parameters. Thus, the electronic polymer-based Occupant Classification sensor system not only recognizes whether the seat is occupied, but also detects the weight of the person sitting in it. The system is moreover able to determine whether, for example, a child seat is fitted onto the passenger seat, which automatically disables airbag deployment. The THIEME system allows a uniform coating thickness over the entire print area in a roll-to-roll process. The process ensures continuous unwinding and rewinding of the substrate. The discontinuous printing is applied on a flat-bed screen printing machine, which guarantees total control. Moreover, resistance measurements are integrated into the process. In addition, a solution has been developed, in which the sensors are assembled on a THIEME laminating machine into finished seat sensors. Manufacturing technologies increase productivity LOPE-C 2013 shows the entire value chain and offers system builders a large- scale platform. High precision and accuracy is essential in manufacturing. For example, the pressure at which the electrically conductive polymers are coated is decisive for the functional capability and reliability of the end-product. In order to manufacture printed organic electronics at low cost in a roll-to-roll process, modern equipment is needed such as the LabCo equipment made for laboratories and small-scale production by manufacturer Kroenert. The universal and extremely flexible coating and laminating systems in the LabCo range coat all materials suitable for roll-to-roll with widths of up to 500 mm. LabCo's modular structure makes it versatile in use, for example for the manufacture of sensors, memories, organic photovoltaics and OLEDs. Bosch Rexroth is showing its Advanced Web Tension Control, a completely new kind of control functionality for high-end roll-to-roll production. High speed presents users with certain challenges: to achieve a high register accuracy, the web tension required for the processable materials and the right transport speed must be ensured. This is the premise to achieving high resolution and high coating quality. With its IndraMotion MLC l, Bosch Rexroth is showing a multi- functional control, which is a key element in the system for monitoring web tension in various areas and simultaneously monitors the web edge control. There will be a lecture on this complex issue at the conference on the second day of the event. As for coating processes, Bosch Rexroth has moreover developed a particle-free transport system for coating. Similarly to the Transrapid technology, the carrier floats through the coating system. This means that no particles are released which could affect the process. Manufacturing Execution Systems (MESs) are essential in many areas of production to control efficient, high-quality manufacturing. One highlight of this year's LOPE-C 2013 exhibition will be the MES solution from 3D-Micromac AG. The MES controls and optimizes processes in roll-to-roll production. End-to-end process control guarantees traceability, product bonding and process stability. This has a long-term advantage in continuous product development. The microMES is totally integrated into the microFLEXTM system used for producing flexible electronics. As standard, it includes the functions for complete production monitoring, tracking management and marking of production batches. Where would printed electronics be without conductive polymers? Trade visitors to LOPE-C will also be able to find out about the latest developments in processable materials. For example, Heraeus Precious Metals Conductive Polymers Department produces conductive polymers that are being used more and more in our everyday lives as electrical functional coatings, for example for flexible touchscreens in smartphones and tablet PCs. Behind these intuitive user interfaces lie innovative, printable and organic electronics on thin, conductive coated films. Using a combination of various conductive polymers and a newly developed etching technology, it is possible to apply these functional films on the touchscreen in a way that is invisible to the human eye. Modern touch screen technology requires a specific structuring of the surface into conductive and non-conductive areas. The Heraeus etching technology replaces mechanical structuring by deactivating the conductivity without removing the polymer. This results in conductive structures that are completely invisible to the eye. Joint pavilions for high-level knowledge transfer The booth of the leading international industry association for organic and printed electronics, OE-A (Organic and Printed Electronics Association) is bound to be a crowd-puller at this year's LOPE-C: A total of 20 demonstrators will be on show. Highlights include the OLED-based folding cartons, which can be designed into illuminated packaging. With foldable flexible displays, the next generation of e-readers is emerging, since the display can open and shut like a book. Integrated touch sensors are being used increasingly as a user interface for the center console of car dashboards. Another demonstrator will be a model of an ICE train. What makes it so special? Parts of the outer shell of the train are coated with organic photovoltaics, so that clean electricity can be generated via the solar film. This can be used for the air conditioning, for example. Wallpaper that can provide an effective shield against electro smog? That too is something you will be able to see there. The OE-A is supporting its members via this platform. LOPE-C is once again demonstrating its international appeal - among other new exhibitors, for the first time there will be a joint Japanese participation: the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) will be focusing on four topical carrier themes. Their exhibits will include flexible composite layer systems with barrier layers, copper pastes for low temperature processes, non-toxic organic ferroelectrics and pressure sensors based on flexible film coatings. JAPERA - Japan Advanced Printed Electronics Technology Research Association will be showing the high-performance system Hi-PAP (high productivity all-print) for the manufacture of flexible, organic TFT arrays, thus concentrating on manufacturing processes. The Nagase company introduces the DryCure nano-ink composed of gold or silver particles, which dries under ambient conditions and is suitable for any substrate surfaces. Mitsubishi Material can look back on more than 30 years of experience, and will be presenting the next generation of Tungsten Carbide lipped slot dies. Another Japanese exhibitor is Zeon, which mainly manufactures dielectrics for consumer electronics. LOPE-C 2013