Printed electronics is a set of printing methods used to create electrical devices on various substrates. Printing typically uses common printing equipment suitable for defining patterns on material, such as screen printing, flexography, gravure, offset lithography and inkjet. By electronic industry standards, these are low cost processes. Electrically functional electronic or optical inks are deposited on the substrate, creating active or passive devices, such as thin film transistors or resistors. Printed electronics is expected to facilitate widespread, very low-cost, low-performance electronics for applications such as flexible displays.
The term printed electronics is related to organic electronics or plastic electronics, in which one or more inks are composed of carbon-based compounds. Printed electronics includes organic semiconductors, inorganic semiconductors, metallic conductors, nanoparticles, nanotubes, etc.
The most important benefit of printing is low-cost volume fabrication. The lower cost enables use in more applications. Printing on flexible substrates allows electronics to be placed on curved surfaces, for example, putting solar cells on vehicle roofs. More typically, conventional semiconductors justify their much higher costs by providing much higher performance.
Both organic and inorganic materials are used for printed electronics. Ink materials must be available in liquid form, for solution, dispersion or suspension. They must function as conductors, semiconductors, dielectrics or insulators. Material costs must be fit for the application.
Material properties largely determine the differences between printed and conventional electronics. Printable materials provide decisive advantages beside printability, such as mechanical flexibility and functional adjustment by chemical modification (e.g. light color in OLED’s).
Printed conductors offer lower conductivity and charge carrier mobility.
Printed electronics allows the use of flexible substrates, which lowers production costs and allows fabrication of mechanically flexible circuits. While inkjet and screen printing typically imprint rigid substrates like glass and silicon, mass-printing methods nearly exclusively use flexible foil and paper. Poly (ethylene terephthalate)-foil (PET) is common choice, due to its low cost and higher temperature stability.
Printed electronics are in use or under consideration for:
- Data Storage
- Display and visual effects
Butler Technologies is an approved Licensee of Sensitronics, manufacturer of Force Sensing Resistors. Force-Sensing Resistors are used in applications including medical devices, sports equipment, automotive sensors, musical instruments, pressure-sensitive buttons, interactive toys and a wide variety of portable electronic devices.
For more information on Force Sensing Resistors click here.