Tuesday, March 21, 2006

RFID: Printed Electronics Will Change the World

Printed Electronics Will Change the World
By Dr Peter Harrop IDTechEx

Printed electronics is rapidly moving from inventions to commercialisation. This transition will be explored in the conference Printed Electronics Europe April 20-21 in Churchill College Cambridge UK www.printelec.com. Bookings for the conference are at a record level.

Despite the academic setting, the conference covers the how, the when and the finance, not blue skies research. It is about how we shall print electronic clothing, lighting, books and the self adjusting use by date. Then there is the biodegradable, disposable mobile phone, iPod and laptop, cars that glow in the dark and every billboard, poster, airport screen, packet of drugs and shelf sign having a moving colour display in the form of low cost electronic paper or plastic film.

Speaker Dr Colin Marsh of The Technology Partnership in the UK says, “"The question is not whether printed electronics will change our world, but when. The first battle is being fought in the multi-billion-dollar markets of displays and data. Leaps in material performance and next-generation printing technologies are powering this drive to commercialisation." He will talk on “Novel manufacturing methods for printed electronics”.

The materials and processes are nearly in place to repeat the early commercial success of Organic Light Emitting Displays, which are increasingly printed, into many other electrical and electronic components and systems. For example, speaker Dr Reuben Rieke of Rieke Metals Inc in the US says, “There will be no shortage of printable organic semiconductors. They will be at a cost that will enable the whole industry to move forward. For example, the sub one cent RFID label will definitely happen.” Indeed, the potential for printed semiconductors may be even larger in photovoltaics, where acres of low cost power from the sun is in prospect. It will be printed onto low cost polymer film and tape and appear in many different locations. He will describe his new discoveries of printable semiconductors that consist of “Novel polythiophenes from highly reactive metals”.

It is now clear that no single printed display technology will fit all applications, or even most of them. Light emitting printed displays are poor in the sunlight and the eye cannot see the finest detail on them in the dark. Reflective displays have a place, both to replace paper and to provide moving colour images at economical cost and there are many complementary types of printed reflective display. For example, NTERA of the Republic of Ireland has a high definition electrochromic display technology of exceptional brightness and viewing angle that is compatible with LCD manufacturing processes. Speaker Dr David Corr, chief executive of NTERA, says, “We are very excited about the convergence of many complementary technologies that will drive critical mass and create a healthy printed electronics industry”. Richard Kirk, chief executive of elumin8, will talk about “New large area colour displays”. These printed displays are already commercially successful . They are DC electroluminescent and conform to the shape of a building – the ultimate versatile billboard.


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