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EETE MAR 2015

FLEXIBLE ELECTRONICS IoT speeds printed electronics development By AChristoph Hammerschmidt fter years of pre-announcements and technology studies, organic electronics is about to arrive in the world of commercial production. At the LOPEC congress and trade fair, visitors could have a close look at products and production machinery. One of the accelerators might be the reason that its creators now blend it with conventional silicon technologies. A small card of paper the size of a business card, the writing on it shines in a bright turquoise as soon as it is connected to a battery. No, this is not an OLED, it is an electroluminescence display, applied to the paper in a printing process and manufactured on the Demo Line, the demonstration production line at the exhibition. Though small, this electroluminescence display is illuminating the progress that has been achieved in organic and printed electronics in the recent past. Organic electronics are a growth industry. The Organic and Printed Electronics Association (OE-A) expects sales with machinery and products to grow another 11 percent in 2015; the prediction is based on a poll among its 3100 member companies primarily in Europe but also in Asia and North America. And the products generated with organic and metallic inks are gaining more usefulness. Examples could be viewed at the OE-A product and demonstrator contest whose results have been awarded a prize at LOPEC which took place in the first week of March in Munich. Among the contenders was Belgian company Quad Industries. Its temperature sensing labels can be attached to the packaging of perishable food or drugs and monitor the chill chain during the transport. The stored temperature data can be read out through an NFC reader. These labels are at the same time an example that manufacturers of organic / printed electronics have cast off their earlier shyness and now combine conventional electronic circuits with printed elements. In the case of the temperature sensor, the batteries and antennas are created in a printing process while the data storage and NFC functionality has been implemented in a classic silicon chip. Such hybrid products are believed to be an important trend for printed electronics technology. What’s more, NFC functionality integrated in product labels enables vendors to establish an online connection between the products and the user’s smartphone and thus address the consumer directly. Products thus become integrated into the Internet of Things. During a panel discussion at the exhibition, it became apparent that yesterday’s future trends in printed electronics are today’s applications. In particular in the automotive industry, printed electronics have made their way into real-world production. “We already see the first printed devices in cars”, said Wolfgang Mildner, General Chair of the LOPEC. Examples are antennas in the interior and heating inlays for seats. “These applications are not overly sophisticated but the products are already meeting the quality standards - and they are cost-savers.” Flashing business cards become possible with printed electroluminescence displays, manufactured on the LOPEC demo line in a near-industrial process. In future vehicle generations, more organic devices will be seen, explained Kai Hohmann, Technical Expert Automotive Displays for automotive supplier Continental. According to Hohmann, curved OLED displays as well as curved sensor surfaces will be the next printed devices users will see in vehicles. “OLEDs are very important elements for car interiors”, Hohmann said. “We are already in the prototyping phase”. The industry however admits that the physical performance does not yet meet the goals. “Performance remains a challenge”, said Stephan Kirchmeyer from technology and equip- This electronic label, developed by Norwegian company Thin Film Electronics, has NFC functionality. It opens a broad range of application options, from brand protection to directly addressing the customer with advertising messages. 44 Electronic Engineering Times Europe March 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE MAR 2015
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