intelliFLEX Technology Areas

Our Members are active in many technology areas encompassed by Printable, Flexible and Hybrid Electronics. They include colleges and universities, government agencies, dynamic startups, growing SMEs and established multinationals. They represent the full breadth of the value chain required to turn an innovative idea into a commercial product.

These include the enablers – the manufacturers, integrators and equipment vendors at the forefront of materials science and production methods. Our membership is rich with these companies that offer cutting edge ink and paste formulations, substrate materials and the technical expertise to develop hybrid solutions that combine printable and flexible with conventional electronics.

Through these pages, we highlight the technology building blocks for creating compelling products and applications, from smart parts and smart labels, to wearables and interactive displays, to name but a few.

If you are an application-oriented company looking for a development partner to help you incorporate any of these technologies into your products or overcome a development challenge, let us know and we can broker an introduction.

Sensors

Printed sensors are the next generation of sensors that can be produced through high volume and automated additive manufacturing processes. They are the crucial piece to add low-cost and low-power intelligence to everyday objects for the Internet of Things. Printed sensors are already common in the market in the form of the test strips used in blood glucose monitors by those suffering from diabetes. But the consumer and industry applications are far-reaching. Printed sensors include biosensors, capacitive sensors, piezoresistive sensors, piezoelectric sensors, photodetectors, temperature sensors, humidity sensors and gas sensors. IDTechEx forecasts the market for fully printed sensors will pass US$8 billion by 2025.

Displays

Organic LEDs, or OLEDs, promise a new generation of low-cost displays that are lighter, thinner and even flexible compared to conventional LCD displays, while at the same time offering better picture quality and consuming less power. OLED displays are now mass-produced for consumer products such as mobile phones, tablets and TVs, and for industrial display applications. Development continues to extend the functional lifespan and efficiency of OLEDs versus traditional LCDs. IDTechEx forecasts the market for all types of OLED displays will grow to US$57 billion in 2026.

Lighting

Our members can provide flexible lighting solutions based on large format LED sheet lighting that are often used in retail and architectural applications. On the next generation lighting front, OLEDs are widely viewed as the new solid-state lighting technology that could supplant inorganic LEDs for residential, office, industrial, outdoor, hospitality, shop and automotive applications. Due to their high intensity, wide range of form factors with small or large sheet lighting, and ability to be tuned for intensity and colour, OLEDs are ideal for mimicking natural light. IDTechEx expects the OLED market to surpass $US2 billion in 2026. Several of our Members are active in this space, and we  discuss lighting technologies more in the Connected Home and Intelligent Building white papers we developed with CABA.

Photovoltaics

The traditional solar cell is being complimented by a new generation of low-cost organic photovoltaics (OPV) or flexible solar cells based on thin films that can turn a building’s entire exterior into a power generator. OPVs use conductive organic polymers or small organic molecules, printed or coated through high-volume processes on a variety of substrates. These include flexible plastics, fabrics, window glass and other exterior building elements. Applications also include automotive, point-of-sale and advertising, apparel, consumer electronics and off-grid. New high sensitivity OPVs can harvest internal light for low-power applications such as self-powered sensors and self-powered antennas. CPEIA Members are developing functional products that can drive significant societal benefits by harvesting renewable energy.

Hybrid Electronics

Printable and flexible electronics often combine with conventional electronics to create hybrid products and applications – it may be the only way to achieve a desired functionality or performance threshold of the applications today. For example, a large format sensor sheet or a large format OLED light can be connected to traditional electronics for controls or power. CPEIA Members have collaborated to create hybrid solutions that open up new market opportunities. In one collaboration, CPEIA Members used printed components and sub-systems to reduce cost and power consumption for interactive point-of-sale displays that use a small conventional circuit board as the controller.

3D Printable and In-Mould Electronics

It’s been around since the 1980s, but advances in the technology over the past decade have taken 3D Printing mainstream. It encompasses a range of technologies in which different physical mechanisms “print” a three-dimensional object from various types of polymers or metals. Functional electronics can be embedded through this printing process. In-mould electronics is a sub-set of this concept, by embedding electronics – such as circuitry, lighting, printed touch controls, sensors and antennas – into formed and injection-moulded parts. This allows for devices and components that are far less bulky and costly than they would be using conventional electronic components. Another form of 3D printable electronics allows electronics components to be inkjet-printed on to physical objects such as antennas or sensors. For example, a 3D-printed drone that included printed electronics components was demonstrated in 2015.

Smart Textiles and Wearables

Market research firm IDTechEx forecasts the smart textiles and wearables market will experience a compound annual growth rate of 33 per cent over the next decade. Sports and fitness, medical and healthcare, and general wellness present the largest market opportunities. Industrial, commercial and military applications are also gaining ground. For our industry, this creates substantial opportunities to develop and incorporate a wide range of functionalities into wearables and textiles, including sensors, heating, actuation, cooling, lights, antennas and energy harvesting.

Multilayer PCBs & Membrane Switches

All electronics devices today contain a PCB board that holds and connects electronics components.  As devices become smaller and consumers demand more functionality at an affordable price point, multilayer PCBs are becoming more and more complex. An Apple iPad Air 2, for example, features a 10-layer PCB buildup. But creating conventional multilayer PCBs is a costly subtractive process that yields substantial chemical waste. An exciting emerging field is 3D-printed multilayer PCBs, promising higher volume, lower cost and much less waste. The classic printed multilayer component is of course the membrane switch, found in consumer devices since the 1980s as an alternative to bulky mechanical switches. Several CPEIA Members are established industry leaders in membrane switching and can integrate this technology with traditional components such as sensors or lights.

RFID, NFC & Antennas

We live in a wireless world dependant on communications. As we move into the age of smart packaging, smart fabrics and the embedded functionality of the Internet of Things, new requirements for data collection and wireless sensor networks demand a new generation of antenna technologies that are low-power, reliable and economical. Printed antennas address these needs and are already found in automobiles, mobile devices and other verticals. CPEIA Members in the public and private sectors are at the forefront of this research, development and commercialization.

Batteries

The rise of the Internet of Things, wearable devices and sensors for remote or embedded applications demands a new generation of batteries that are flexible, thin, rollable and even stretchable. Skin patches for healthcare applications using printed batteries are already commercially available. It’s a rapidly evolving market space that includes diverse technologies – printed batteries, thin-film batteries, laminar lithium-polymer batteries, advanced lithium-ion batteries, micro-batteries, stretchable batteries and thin flexible supercapacitors.

Flexible Electronics

Be it sensors, OLED displays, lighting or batteries, connectors or PCBs, flexibility is a common theme when it comes to Printable, Flexible and Wearable Electronics. The key flexible electronic is developing conductive ink and paste formulations that can continue to deliver optimal performance despite repeated distortion over time. These are deposited onto or embedded into flexible substrates such a PET, paper or textile. Flexible electronics also includes next-generation conductive yarns that can stand up to repeated washings for embedding electronic functions into fabrics. Many CPEIA Members are active in this space, developing the required materials and manufacturing equipment, and creating end-use applications that have strong market pull for healthcare, fitness and industrial applications.

Memory

Along with printed sensors, batteries and antennas, connecting everyday objects through the Internet of Things requires memory that can be produced in high-volume and at low cost. Printed memory can also be used to secure goods against tampering, theft and counterfeiting. Xerox and Thinfilm have already shown the world this technology in action with Xerox’s Printed Memory and Printed Memory with Cryptographic Security labels, which can store up 68 billion points of data.  Xerox is a Founding Member of the CPEIA through the Xerox Research Centre of Canada.

Interconnects

If you look at all the various sub-components that are available either in printed or flexible formats, a key element is how to connect them to each other or to traditional electronic components or integrated chips. For example, if you have 10 sensors on a sports shirt that monitor your health, how do you connect them to each other or wirelessly to a handheld device to take that data into the cloud? Interconnects and controllers are key to integrating componentry into a system. They often have standard interfaces that are developed through industry standardization bodies.

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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

About Us

intelliFLEX, a not-for-profit industry alliance, is a vital partner for accelerating the growth of the printable, flexible and hybrid electronics sector of more than 300 organizations across Canada. Our technologies add intelligence and connect ordinary objects to enable the Internet of Everything.

We unite our growing global membership to build an effective ecosystem of supply chains for flexible, 3D printable electronics, 2D large area printable electronics, wearable electronics, smart textiles and hybrid electronics including related semiconductors, integrated circuits and software.

Our programs accelerate the adoption of these innovations for Smart Packaging and Retail, Intelligent Buildings and Connected Homes, Aerospace and Defence, Automotive and Industrial Applications, Health and Wellness, Intelligent Documents and Wearables.

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