Advanced Manufacturing Platforms
for Printable, Flexible, Hybrid Electronics
intelliFLEX unites supply chains at every level, to create functional, connected and smart devices, systems and applications:
Cloud Based Operational, Data Analytics Software Systems
This is the operational layer, where data is collected, analyzed, and pulled from and pushed to the individual user of a connected device – from a home automation system, to a wearable device or even a credit card or passport that is enabled with a chip.
Application Software (Phones, Tablets, etc)
The applications allow the user to interact with their device, whether that is a smartphone, tablet or other purpose-built consumer device.
Internet of Everything (IOE) - Electronics Systems
This pertains to complete, functional systems built with one or some combination of printable, flexible or hybrid electronics for specific applications, be that a smart label, a smart garment or wearable, OLED lighting, a photovoltaic energy harvesting system, an RFID or NFC system and so forth. Equipment, services and systems for manufacturing, quality control and packaging of these systems are also part of this layer.
The actual building blocks for creating fully functional assemblies and systems, using manufacturing platforms that include:
2D and 3D Printable Electronics, in which conductive materials such as inks, pastes or coatings are applied to a substrate at high enough density to form a complete electronic circuit, but thin enough to have negligible impact on the substrate thickness. The substrate can be rigid, flexible or even stretchable, such as paper, plastics, fabric or glass. These conductive materials can be applied through traditional printing processes such as flexo, screen, inkjet, gravure, and offset, as well as through a coating process.
Printable electronic components can also be embedded though additive manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing or in-mould electronics, and applied to 3D surfaces. A subset of printable electronics is organic electronics, which pertains specifically to the development and application of carbon-based conductive materials, such as those made from graphene.
Also known as flex circuits, flexible electronic components are mounted on flexible plastic substrates, such as polyimide, PEEK or transparent conductive polyester film. Additionally, flex circuits can be screen-printed silver circuits on polyester. Flexible electronic assemblies may be manufactured using identical components used for rigid printed circuit boards, allowing the board to conform to a desired shape, or to flex during use. An alternative approach is to thin down the traditional silicon substrate through etching to few tens of micrometers to gain reasonable flexibility, referred to as flexible silicon.
A broad and diverse category that encompasses the integration of printable or flexible electronic components or subsystems with conventional or silicon-based electronics, to achieve desired specifications for weight, physical footprint, functionality and/or performance.
Wearables refer to any number of smart devices worn on the person or embedded into garments. They may incorporate a variety of printable, flexible or hybrid components and assemblies, as well as cloud-based software applications – such as to collect biometric data from the wearer and upload it to a fitness app on a smartphone.
Smart Textiles Electronics
Smart Textiles functionality can be embedded into the actual material by making it conductive. This can be done in various ways with conductive yarns. A substrate thread such as cotton, polyester, nylon, stainless steel or other high-performance fibre is coated or embedded with an electrically conductive element. There is also an interest in semiconducting textiles, made by impregnating normal textiles with carbon or metal-based powders.
Thin-film Integrated Circuits and Semiconductors are devices created by depositing films of conducting material on the surface of a glass or ceramic base. Resistors and conductors are fabricated by controlling the width and thickness of the films and by using different materials selected for their resistivity. Capacitors are produced by sandwiching a film of insulting oxide between two conducting films. Inductors are made by depositing a spiral formation of film. Transistors and diodes can also be produced by thin-film technology.
These manufacturing platforms can be used separately or in combination to create:
Printed memory can be produced in high-volume and low cost to, for example, secure goods against tampering, theft and counterfeiting.
IoT devices and applications require less bulky alternatives to mechanical switches. The classic example is the printed membrane switch, found in consumer devices since the 1980s.
Wearable devices and sensors for remote or embedded applications demand a new generation of batteries that are flexible, thin, rollable and even stretchable.
New requirements for data collection and wireless sensor networks require a new generation of antenna technologies that are low-power, reliable and economical.
Low-cost, low-power sensors are crucial to the Internet of Things.
A new generation of low-cost organic photovoltaics (OPV) and flexible solar cells based on thin films can turn any interior or exterior surface into an energy harvesting device.
Clocks and Timers
For any application where recording the passage of time is required.
To perform desired computational functions.
Lighting and Displays
Organic LEDs, or OLEDs, for a new generation of low-cost displays that are lighter, thinner and even flexible compared to conventional LCD displays. OLEDs are widely viewed as the new solid-state lighting technology that could supplant inorganic LEDs.
Interconnects and Controllers
These are key to integrating componentry into a system. They often have standard interfaces that are developed through industry standardization bodies.
For applications ranging from food temperature control containers to battery testers and smart apparel.
The printable and flexible componentry listed above require smart materials. These include:
- Inks and pastes that can be engineered to conduct electricity with different properties and performance characteristics, made from organic materials, such as carbon-based graphene, or metals such as nickel, copper, gold, silver or titanium.
- Conductive and other coatings that can create special surface features.
- Adhesives for multilayer laminates.
- Resins with specific engineered characteristics cured through stereolithographic (SLA) 3D printing.
- Specialty plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and other non-plastics used as substrates for deposited materials e.g. flexible glass.
- Flexible biomaterials that can be interacting and/or compatible with human tissues.
- Electronically conducting biodegradable materials.
- Stretchable conductive materials.
- Conductive yarns.
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Fall Sector Leadership Council Meeting
October 24 | Toronto
Members only for senior industry executives
3-Day Training Session
November 27-29 | Montreal
Fundamentals of printable, flexible electronics