Xerox to jump-start industry commercialization by providing printed electronics materials that easily print on plastics, film and textiles.
With the development of a new silver ink, Xerox
scientists have paved the way for commercialization and low-cost manufacturing
of printable electronics. Printable electronics offers manufacturers a very
low-cost way to add "intelligence" or computing power to a wide range
of surfaces such as plastic or fabric. This development will aid the
commercialization of new applications such as "smart" pill boxes that
track how much medication a patient has taken or display screens that roll up
to fit into a briefcase.
"For years, there's been a global race to find a low-cost way to
manufacture plastic circuits," said Paul Smith, laboratory manager, Xerox
Research Centre of Canada. "We've found the silver bullet that could make
things like electronic clothing and inexpensive games a reality today. This breakthrough
means the industry now has the capability to print electronics on a wider range
of materials and at a lower cost."
Until now, bringing low-cost electronics to the masses has been hindered by the
logistics and costs associated with silicon chip manufacturing; the
breakthrough low-temperature silver ink overcomes the cost hurdle, printing
reliably on a wide range of surfaces such as plastic or fabric. As part of its
commercialization initiatives, Xerox plans to aggressively seek interested manufacturers
and developers by providing sample materials to allow them to test and evaluate
Integrated circuits are made up of three components – a semiconductor, a
conductor and a dielectric element – and currently are manufactured in costly
silicon chip fabricating factories. By creating a breakthrough silver ink to
print the conductor, Xerox has developed all three of the materials necessary
for printing plastic circuits.
Using Xerox's new technology, circuits can be printed just like a
continuous-feed document without the extensive clean room facilities required
in current chip manufacturing. In addition, scientists have improved their
previously developed semiconductor ink, increasing its reliability by
formulating the ink so that the molecules precisely align themselves in the
best configuration to conduct electricity.
The printed electronics materials, developed at the Xerox Research Centre of
Canada, enable product manufacturers to put electronic circuits on plastics,
film, and textiles. Printable circuits could be used in a broad range of
products, including low-cost radio frequency identification tags, light and
flexible e-readers and signage, sensors, solar cells and novelty applications
including wearable electronics.
"We will be able to print circuits in almost any size from smaller,
custom-sized circuits to larger formats such as wider rolls of plastic sheets –
unheard of in today's silicon-wafer industry," said Hadi Mahabadi, Vice
President and Center Manager of Xerox Research Centre Canada. "We are
taking this technology to product developers to enable them to design
tomorrow's uses for printable electronics."
R&D samples of the materials including the new conductive silver ink are
available by contacting Xerox.