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Printing technology for ubiquitous electronics

Jayna R. Sheats (Terepac Corporation, Waterloo, Canada)
David Biesty (Terepac Corporation, Waterloo, Canada)
Julien Noel (Terepac Corporation, Waterloo, Canada)
Gary N. Taylor (Terepac Corporation, Waterloo, Canada)

Circuit World

ISSN: 0305-6120

Article publication date: 18 May 2010




The purpose of this paper is to analyze the economics of various printing processes proposed for small‐scale electronic products such as radio frequency identification tags, smart cards, and wireless sensors, and to present a new transfer printing method.


The costs of several types of microstructuring techniques were calculated from commercial product data, along with a detailed spreadsheet simulation of inkjet printing for microelectronics. A new material for transfer printing was developed, along with suitable tooling for placing small and thin dice on flexible substrates.


The cost analysis of inkjet printing suggests that it may not be substantially less expensive than conventional silicon technology for this purpose, while achieving inferior performance. Offset printing is cheaper but further from practicality. The new transfer printing process successfully prints very small silicon dice at high speed, and appears to meet the market needs with respect to cost, product performance and flexibility in readily producing different designs.

Research limitations/implications

The cost analysis depends on assumptions which are not all well known, and which change with time. The new method has not yet been run in a high‐volume production mode. Such experience will be necessary to fully confirm its value.


This analysis identifies cost factors which have not been generally appreciated in public discussions of printed electronics. The transfer printing process offers a unique way to make cost‐effective use of silicon integrated circuits which are much smaller than any that appear in products today, and may have ramifications beyond the original target of tags and sensors.



Sheats, J.R., Biesty, D., Noel, J. and Taylor, G.N. (2010), "Printing technology for ubiquitous electronics", Circuit World, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 40-47.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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