Customer stories: Printed technology for low-cost electronic displays

Acreo Swedish ICT has developed a unique method for printing electronic components on plain paper or plastic substrates. The new technological platform, called Printed Electronics, can be used to manufacture flexible electronic displays for advertising purposes, to produce intelligent packages, to add log-in functionality on smart cards and for applications in the health sector, among others. Traditional printing equipment is used, which makes it much less expensive compared to the production of other display technologies.

“This is so novel that we have to create markets and applications ourselves,” says Peter Andersson Ersman at Acreo Swedish ICT

At Acreo Swedish ICT, using traditional printing equipment to add electronic and bio-electronic functions on paper or plastic substrates is becoming a reality. The research institute works on display solutions with different levels of complexity. In the most basic form, the electronic message is predefined and then printed on paper. This means that the user only can turn the paper display on or off. On the next level, segmented displays are produced. Each segment on the flexible screen can be controlled at any time, allowing for the content on the screen to change. In this case, five different organic materials are printed on the flexible substrate in the production process. Yet even more advanced matrix-addressed displays are being developed, in which each pixel can be uniquely addressed. This, in turn, enables any arbitrary message to be displayed. While competing methods to produce displays are based on metallic oxides, such as tungsten and vanadium, Acreo uses organic materials. With this technology, there is no need for advanced production facilities including vacuum systems, required in traditional display production.

Multiple domains of knowledge

Printed Electronics is very cross-boundary and it builds on physics, chemistry, electronics and biology.

“We are unique in that we can create many different functions based on organic materials, for example displays, transistors, batteries, sensors and ion pumps, all produced by printing equipment,” says Peter Andersson Ersman.

Personally, he thinks that Printed Electronics in the near future will come up with sensor applications measuring temperature or humidity, to be used in packaging and distribution systems. He also foresees printed sensor systems, sensitive to impacts, bumps and heat, or even within biosensor applications.

Touchless writing

But the Printed Electronic era has just started. Together with European partners, Acreo has recently been working on a touchless technology in which sensors sensitive for the temperature of your finger are printed on a flexible sheet, making it possible to write touchless in the air. This can be a weapon to fight the transmission of bacteria in hospitals.

Much of the research and development is conducted in close collaboration with the group of Organic Electronics at Linköping University. Acreo assumes the role of refining the research results into demonstrators, manufacturing processes and prototypes. At PEA-Manufacturing, a printing facility located in Norrköping, the industry can test the viability of Printed Electronics for new applications.

Partners

Acreo Swedish ICT, Linköping university and PEA - Printed Electronics Arena

Contact

Peter Andersson Ersman, peter.andersson.ersman [at] acreo.se