While products such as flexible packaging, label stocks, adhesive tapes and silicone release liners are mainstays of the global web converting industry, the fledgling market for printed, organic and flexible electronics (PE) represents a Brave New World of opportunities for converters and suppliers. Items such as OLEDs, sensors and conductive inks, for example, account for 99% of this year’s nearly $24-billion market, as estimated by UK researcher IDTechEx.
One place to spot the latest trends in product design and actual manufacturing of these items is this week’s Printed Electronics USA 2014. Here’s a quick rundown on a few new developments (as of presstime):
- Arjowiggins Creative Papers (US): POWERCOAT® FSC-certified, biodegradable, 100% recyclable, coated paper as a flexible substrate for printed electronics.
- Canatu Oy (Finland): A stretchable, nano-carbon film for touch displays and control surfaces in automobiles, home appliances and consumer electronics.
- DuPont Microcirucuit Materials (US): PE510 pure copper conductive ink, as a cost-effective alternative to silver, for certain types of antennae, membrane touch switches, RFIDs and consumer electronics apps.
- Heraeus Materials Technology GmbH & Co. KG (Germany): Clevios™ PEDOT:PSS two-component hardcoat lacquer for enhanced mechanical stability in coated substrates.
- Northfield Automation Systems (US): Profection Series modular, additive printing, inspection and characterization equipment for precision handling in R2R operations.
- SouthWest NanoTechnologies (US): 3D capacitive touch sensors using V2V™ transparent, thermoformed, carbon nanotube inks.
- XENON Corp. (US): In-line digital printing of conductive ink on paper (via Methode Electronics), then high-speed, pulsed-light sintering to produce a working RFID inlay.
High-speed R2R converting of wide webs of printed, flexible electronics are, of course, the Holy Grail of this breakthrough field. Costs would decline significantly and throughput would skyrocket, but while this won’t happen any time soon, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all. Stop and think about the digital package printing of 20 years ago: Narrow, slow, low-resolution. Today, presses are churning out 30-in.-wide webs at 150 fpm with quality rivaling that of gravure.
For a look at today’s high-speed web converting and how the printed, flexible electronics of 2030 will be manufactured, look no further than ICE USA 2015 (Feb. 10-12 in Orlando, FL). Already numerous exhibitors at the show will be displaying systems for coating, laminating, slitting and rewinding PE materials for products such as OPVs, thin-film batteries and RFIDs. And there’s nothing narrow or slow about that.
ICE USA’s Guest Blogger is Mark Spaulding. He has been a business-to-business journalist for 30+ years. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a BA in Print Journalism and Graphic Design. His publishing experience includes a variety of editorial positions including chief editor of Packaging magazine, and for 15 years, he had been editor-in-chief of Converting magazine. Now, as associate publisher and editor-in-chief of Converting Quarterly, he manages the overall editorial mission for the official AIMCAL technical journal. Online, Mark writes frequent posts for his Blog, “The Converting Curmudgeon.”
Source: ICE USA EXPO BLOG