What does the term ‘printed electronics’ mean?

Printed electronics is based on the combination of new materials and large area, high volume deposition and patterning techniques. A set of printing methods allow electronic and photonic devices to be printed using conductive or semiconductive inks and various substrates (mainly plastics and fabrics). Such methods may include screen printing, flexography, gravure, offset lithography and inkjet. These techniques may yield printed resistors, condensers, transistors and many other electronic components.

Printed IC photo

What are the advantages of printed electronics?

Printed electronics are considered easy to manufacture as well as cost-effective and time-saving, though mostly low-performance. The printed materials are usually very thin, light and flexible, and can be integrated into existing production lines for printed products. These advantages prove attractive to many existing applications, as well as inspiring for new applications.

What can printed electronics be used for?

Printed electronics is a growing field that opens the door to new possibilities, like smart containers and packages, fabrics that double as lighting fixtures, flexible screens and more. New applications are constantly becoming possible in consumer electronics, packaging, printing, automotive, medical/pharmaceutical industries and more.

Printed electronics technology is still in early stages: while increasing numbers of products are available, many applications are still in lab-scale development, prototype activities or early production. Printed electronics have already started to appear in our daily lives, for example in car manufacturing with printed aerials, smart textiles with pressure sensors to recognize seat occupancy and self-dimming rearview mirrors, or in the medical field with medical test strips with diagnostic electrodes.

Key trends in printed electronics are starting to become apparent, such as the rapid increase in the mobility of organic semiconductors, conductivity of printed conductors and efficiency of OPV materials, scaling down of patterning processes, development of flexible, lightweight, mobile electronic products enabled by organic electronics and  early appearances of intelligent packaging and smart textiles applications.

Applications can be roughly divided into five main clusters:

  • OLED Lighting
  • OLED displays (mostly Flexible ones)
  • Printable, Organic Photovoltaics (OPV)
  • Electronics and Components (printed memory and batteries, active components and passive components)
  • Integrated Smart Systems (ISS, including smart objects, RFID, sensors and smart textiles)

OE-A organic and printed electronics roadmap