Printed Electronics Europe 7 and 8 April 2009 Dresden Germany

Microelectronics International

ISSN: 1356-5362

Article publication date: 31 July 2009



(2009), "Printed Electronics Europe 7 and 8 April 2009 Dresden Germany", Microelectronics International, Vol. 26 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Printed Electronics Europe 7 and 8 April 2009 Dresden Germany

Article Type: Conferences and exhibitions From: Microelectronics International, Volume 26, Issue 3

IDTechEx were holding their second Printed Electronics Europe conference and exhibition in Dresden, and one could quite see why. A perfect venue, the Maritim, on the banks of the river Elbe, all bathed in warm Spring sunshine, and with the registration of some 700 delegates, the picture compared to their first conference at Churchill College Cambridge for about 100 people some 3 years ago could not have been more marked.

The surging interest in printed electronics, from the deeply involved to the mildly curious, has driven the subject to the forefront of corporate consideration, and now some major players in the consumables market have put together dedicated teams to discover what benefits printed electronics can bring to such mundane products as soap powder and chocolate bars. There are some strong players in this industry, which is maturing fast, although the distinctions between those “pushing” and those “pulling” remain none too clear thus far.

Mr Raghu Das is the CEO of IDTEchEx and opened proceedings with the nice idea that when it comes to thinking printed electronics, one can now include sticky tape and sheets of paper, rather than bits of plastic. But for all that, it is a mighty market worth $1.9 billion today, rising to an amazing $57 billion in 10 years time. The industry is 71 per cent mature, with OLEDs leading the product share from photovoltaics, but in ten years time this will change, with PV's being a $19.5 billion market, OLEDs an $18.5 billion one, 76 per cent being printed. The fastest growing sector will be transistors. OLEDs currently enjoy $6-8 billion investment, and the “must-have” now are barrier films for OLEDS, which can exclude water and oxygen – “achieve that and we can conquer all” said Ragu. Work to be done, it seems. Many claims made, nothing proven so far commercially. Photovoltaics are enjoying a $5 billion venture investment, and within the next 12 months printed transistors will be going into significant commercial production, to be a $350 million market by 2014.

The emerging value chain is unbalanced, concluded Raghu, there is little market pull, but increasing interest is coming from end-users including the military consumer groups, and larger organisations are showing long-term commitment.

Mr Clemens Türck is the gentleman who develops electronics games for Ravensburger in Germany, a company with a €285 million turnover who produce board games and puzzles for children (and their dedicated parents) and has done so since 1883. They launched their first electronic “touch & play” board game back in 2003, using conductive inks as tracks below a decorative dielectric with a clear conductive varnish over the top. This had some major problems with the game, and it was expensive, but two-three years later they had improved reliability, and had overcome most of the challenges concerning input and output devices, and costs. The toy industry may not be regarded as an industry driver, but here was one application story, with a happy ending.

Professor Pietro Perlo is the Director of the Technology Centre for FIAT Centro Recherché, and this was evident in his presentation on the use of photovoltaics and other printed functionalities for efficient electrical mobility. With a further one million cars coming onto the roads every 50 days, it is worth noting that only 20 per cent of the energy they requires comes from renewables. FIAT have built and are running a test vehicle which incorporates much “smart” silicon thin film solar panels in its construction, and he claims that the use of on-board solar cells is not longer a costly exercise, and a small car could cover some 8,200 km/annum solely on solar power, although you would have to allow for the British climate when the figure drops to a mere 15 km/day, hardly enough to get to the pub and back. In Spain, the figure would be 40 km/day, would be the figure in Spain, where it is of course, a lot sunnier. California should be wonderful! Photovoltaics embedded in the roof of a car will cover 50 per cent of in-car power demand globally, he claimed. He went on to describe the interesting application of printed electronics in a tail light panel assembly which could be produced on a roll-to-roll system, much reducing component costs and providing better reliability.

Dr Paul Beecher impressed the delegates with his presentation on the work being done in the UK at the Nokia Research Centre in Cambridge. Working in close collaboration with the University there, primarily on cognitive systems, they are using nanotechnology for products which needed to be flexible, stretchable, thin and transparent. A tall order, and with a new library of materials There was a requirement for example, for having a combined battery capacitor integrated into the substrate; for a flexible multifunctional surface which would include sensing as well as tactile/haptic sensors using ZnO nanowires. The devices would be rigid, but the interconnects would be stretchable using gold wires, and he went on to describe nanowire lithography in some detail.

Herr Konrad Herre is the VP Manufacturing at Plastic Logic, based in Dresden. Printed publishing is going through a torrid time; circulations are declining, advertising revenues are reducing, and production and distribution costs are going up. The potential for reading digitally is now huge. e-Readers are the way forward, but not with small screens. Sony produced the Reader Digital Book, and sold just 300,000 of them; along with Amazon and their Kindle 2, they have small screens, and this makes them easy to carry but hard to operate. Plastic Logic has employed the second half of their name to produce a product that reads a full A4 page from any format, and may be integrated with a PC to source material. Thin, light and eye-catching, it was ten years in the making, and based on organic electronics, namely organic thin film technology. In Dresden, they have the first plastic electronic factory in the world; fully automated, it will manufacture flexible electronic page display modules from this year onwards.

Dr John Bacon from NASA had the delegates onto the launch pad and then we were off. Printed electronics in space? Yes. John showed a picture of the man on the moon, and lo and behold, there were photovoltaic panels on the space vehicle providing power even then. He described many things; the amount of power required for launch; that only 14 per cent of launches were successful; how the need for miniaturisation of almost everything was vital; the ability to withstand a temperature range of 400 K down to 6 K; need for multiple back-up systems in case of failure. Printed electronics are useful for displays, for control panels, and consider that repair in space is impossible, the need for design for fault tolerance, for end of life performance and for minimum weight, and here are vital. Things age in space, the environment degrades solar cells, and the further from earth you go the less sunshine there is anyway. This was a fascinating talk on the demands made on the space programme people, with space being a difficult place for large solar displays; they cause a huge drag problem; the panels have to rotate through 350° to catch the rays of the sun during an orbit of the earth, and they are so darn big that if they split, then repairing them is a feat that defies imagination.

The President of Soligie in the USA is Mr Matthew Timm who asked where printed electronics fitted in. Cost effectiveness is better than just low cost, and printed electronics offer flexibility, are lighter, have lower power consumption, are more “green”, and have functionality not previously seen, and cater for a technology, adaptive culture. So, using printed electronics can help capture markets, drive unit sales, develop new markets and reduce cost. Those are the objectives, but what are the opportunities? He gave us some illustrations of applications, including a printed electronics radio, an MP3 player hood with controls embedded. Interactive posters, hybrid printed substrates and Si components. Matt talked about his company, and their core competencies; and how they partner with their clients through from concept to product; prototype design, manufacture (one example being a flexible drug delivery patch with user interactive RFID as medical consumables with increased functionality) and application. His roadmap looked clear enough.

Mr Amir Mashkoori is the CEO of Kovio. Amir made barcodes look glamorous. With only 50 employees, they are a major player in the RFID game, or distributed intelligence as he described it. But he wanted to go further to item-level intelligence; using miniaturised components produced using silicon and silver inks applied by ink jet printing. He described how the Kovio process uses stainless steel substrate, silicon and silver inks, with printers to create the IC, and silicon wafers photolithography and mega fabs for the IC. For the attach, all the Kovio process needs is to singulate and attach, in a single layer, a far simpler operation. Their RF barcode is the future, and here it is the sheer volume that will drive affordability, it is a $100 billion opportunity for a 1cent tag. The market for 163B units is $5.3 billion dollars by 2015. To which you need to add the value of the consumer chain, which is where the major players can involve their customers electronically.

Cubic Security Systems is a part of the Cubic Corporation, and their Mr Walt Bonneau described how they are specialists in defence and military homeland security – currently working on linking maritime and airport security systems but there is not a lot of commonality (not much in common), and given the growth rates, they need a green and safe system ticket market, and are moving away from magnetic tickets to RFID. A low-cost solution is required, to replace magnetic tickets, but on the other hand they need to have detection with polymers, here they are using. Molecularly imprinted polymers – which will be integrated into a Polymer/PE Smart Ticket. This will permit passage and yet act as a detection system at the same time. We will then know who we are dealing with what we are dealing with, and when. Bringing printed electronics together with organic materials allows them to bring together a secure functional ticket. There were some caveats, concerning the ability for polymers to withstand harsh environments, and if the technology will be cost effective, at 15 cents a ticket.

After lunch the conference went into three parallel sessions, covering various aspects. We elected to sit in on papers given under the heading “Radical New Printed Electronics Products”.

Hochschule der Median Stuttgart had sent along Professor Gunter Hübner to talk about the integration of screen-printed antennae in plastic body parts, who received a good reception. He refers of course, to car body parts, not human ones. The system relies upon the use screen-printing with silver inks using unsaturated polymer thick film as a carrier for antenna structures, able to withstand process and environment conditions. When the printed sheet is pressed together with the unsaturated polymer film, the rigid board is strong and durable, and surface resistivity has dropped from 10 to 1 Ω−2 Such antenna can be incorporated almost anywhere, including the rear-view mirror housing, the bumpers, within tractor cabs, and the housing above a cab on an HGV. Printed film antennas are flexible, cost-effective and certainly help the bottom line of Car Communication GmbH.

Herr Jorg Fischer is the Principal Scientist at the Bundesdruckerei GmbH. They have 125 years experience in the field, mainly on ID systems (they produce the German passport) and they are working on ID documents with integrated displays, ID 5.4 billion Euro ID systems market value, and Jorg went to on to describe the requirements of anew system. Secure, obviously but also able to withstand handling, temperature and pressure resistant, and cost-efficient. They are looking at flexible silicon security chips; ultra-thin, approximately 30 μm.

Two new technologies have been developed – the first is an e-Paper Display Card which is contactless, and has no internal battery, the second is an electrophoretic display technology, with integrated OLED. Thin and bendable, it has a wide-viewing angle and low power consumption, and can be display oriented. It also has a movable image, and is useful for border crossings with new security documentation; and possibly a biometric centre.

Self-verifying documents are in the near future, with increased security; these are innovative ID smart cards using e-Paper and OLED displays without an internal battery, just RF powered using the existing infra-structure.

Daimler in Germany let Herr Manfred Wagner come to talk to us on smart textile technology in the automotive field. Just for the record, Daimler sold 2.1 million cars last year, and they have a €95.5 billion turnover. Why their interest in smart textiles? Manfred said that social trends mean higher mobility, more time in the car, so at Daimler they are interested in the concept of “health on wheels”, or “wellness on wheels” as more and more time is being spent in the car, and not always in motion. He illustrated ways in which a drivers clothing, comprising a special “suit” made from.

Smartextiles could include actuators, earphones, speakers, etc. as well as sensors, microphones, cameras, measuring temperature, acceleration; a complete user interface, in fact. The methods of methods of manufacture of smart textiles were described in details, with the use of conductive yarns, such as heating applications for seats. The development of new textile and printed electronics was illustrated, with screened electrodes in spacer fabric, also with conductive paste. In the automotive industry, there are competitive technologies, which must be noticeable to the customer, which have to reduce cost, and be reliable, which in Daimler terms, means 80,000 h, 15 years or 300,000 km.

Ms Jana Nyren from Medizine in Finland told us about Preventative e-CARE which is advanced services for the health care market, and they offer the means for efficient communication between doctors and their patients. Patient management by RFID tags was described, as was the Mobile Nurseworks. The nurse uses the RFID tagged mobile phone as a work station, which in turn has links with the patient, the system monitoring, and the medication. This is high quality real time patient reporting during the visit, with added safety for home care nurses.

There is also an electronic board which can be used by patients who are not happy with phones or computers; they have a board that can communicate via embedded devices that will send a signal to the monitoring system, but all the patient has to do is tap it where applicable – well, unwell, help, etc. There is also intelligent packaging which indicates when a medication has been removed/taken. Here, a RFID microchip records exactly when medication has been taken and it can last for 18 months. The package can also act as a reminder to the patient to take medication when necessary via an electronic beep sound.

Wearable Life Sign Monitors was the subject that Jens Krauss of the Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microelectronics (CSEM) talked about. CSEM do not actually make anything, but they do generate high-tech business, spin-offs, and biomedical R&D engineering. In the domain of patient monitoring, they are looking at human kinetics – care of the elderly, rehabilitation and health promotion – and human vital signs monitoring. One of the subjects is Photoplethysmography – this is the measurement of the arterial oxygen saturation level in the blood by pulse signal. They have developed a heart rate monitor as worn by sportsmen and women, and those who venture into the Arctic, Also a reflective pulse oximeter probe for high altitude mountaineers. Jens made specific mention of electronics embedded in clothing with a sensor in a T-shirt for monitoring the inner core temperature of human subjects down in Antarctica undergoing a long-term programme. They have also produced biosensor textiles which can be worn to measure sweating and blood temperature. Smart textiles include closed loop disease management for heart failure patients where the heart is monitored continuously via an article of clothing. One worries about those people in Antarctica who have been there for years wearing all sorts of strange clothing and getting stressed.

Dr Ganesh Kathiresan is with Toumaz Technology in the UK and he is concerned about obesity. Of the UK population 33 per cent is clinically obese, and it is getting worse. This is costing the NHS a fortune, and the main cause of this is heart failure. Heart monitoring is one way in which the vital signs of a potential casualty can be seen on a continual basis, and with present systems, and after processing, a “wellness” number is given to the patient. No “illness” numbers, naturally. But vital signs measurement equipment is large, bulky, and Toumaz have developed a “life pebble” that measures blood pressure, temperature and physical well being. It is called Sensium, it is a single chip solution for complete ultra low-power wireless body area network, comprising a bidirectional wireless transceiver and network controller, using multiple sensors, and this would be accompanied by printed electronics – including a printed battery, a printed antenna, and a printed sensor. Ganesh told us how it would all work once premarket approval had been given, and with Sensium a totally free system of monitoring can be available.

Mr Michel Barjansky is with the RATP (Paris Transport) in France, where, as Head of Marketing, he is working on a new look at disposable tickets. Paris Metro deals with 10 million resident customers a year, and 50 million visitors! This is a mass market industry for sure. Transport for the transients, perhaps.

The cost of issuing tickets is too much, had no real value, sand consumed rare staff resources, so they “virtualised” the whole system, making it contactless. But they found that they had to issue 240 million contracts, a contract being a book of ten tickets for a journey, and the staff were still tied up with the paperwork. Delivering a single ticket costs 80 per cent of the amount received. Having a disposable ticket might be the answer, suggested Michel. Quite how this is to be achieved was not entirely clear, but it would involve printed electronics, and the “print” would take place on whatever the customer had with him at the time. Like a football programme, or a newspaper, or a book, or a magazine. One waits with baited breath to see what happens down in the metro.

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