IDTechEx Highlights World Firsts in Printed Electronics in 2018


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4. Volume production of flexible ICs: A reality

Thin Film Electronics (Thinfilm) has set up one of the first printed electronics factories of its kind at its US headquarters in San Jose, California. This 22,000 sq-ft fab is double the size of the development facility it replaced and is home to the world's first production roll-to-roll (R2R) printed electronics line. Replacing a sheet-fed line based on stainless steel substrates, the roll-to-roll line is designed for an annual capacity of up to 7 billion die.

Also in 2018, PragmatIC announced that the first FlexLogIC™ "fab-in-a-box" has now been installed and commissioned in its facility at Sedgefield, UK. FlexLogIC is a self-contained, fully automated system delivering high throughput manufacturing of ultra-low cost, thin and flexible integrated circuits (FlexICs).

Both companies report that equipment cost is orders of magnitude below that of a contemporary silicon fab. Both organizations will be presenting and exhibiting at the IDTechEx Printed Electronics USA event on November 14-15 in Santa Clara, USA.

5. First Application of Structural Electronics using In-Mold technology in Wearables

Suunto, working with TactoTek, have developed Movesense, a wearable system incorporating a connector based on In-Mold Electronics (IME). The IME process ensures 100% weatherproofing and high durability for the component which is typically integrated into apparel, overcoming limitations with some other electronic systems which can quickly degrade when exposed to different weather and wash cycle conditions.

TactoTek will be exhibiting and presenting at the IDTechEx Printed Electronics USA event on November 14-15 in Santa Clara, USA.

6. Printing in the Electronics Industry: New Applications

There have been many new applications of printing in electronics manufacturing. For example, inkjet printing system supplier Notion Systems have installed several systems that are used in the commercial production of PCBs in 2018. Here, the inkjet printers print the solder mask (a green lacquer) which protects the copper surface and prevents solder shorting between components during assembly. The benefit of using inkjet printing is that it provides a uniform coating where needed, potentially saving on lacquer consumption (the lacquer only needs to be printed where needed) and it simplifies the process of applying the solder mask. One customer is moving fully to inkjet printing for an automotive application in 2018 based on the success of the platform. Notion systems will be exhibiting at Printed Electronics USA.

In a completely different example, XTPL are targeting their fine resolution printing system for display repairs. Occasionally small defects arise in the manufacture of LCD or OLED displays. In inspection of the display panels, these are identified. XTPL's process, which enables the printing of conductive lines less than 100nm thick, can be used to repair these defects.

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