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Printed Electronics World
Posted on October 31, 2018

Commercialization challenges for printed and flexible electronics

Spotlight on Nissha Si-Cal Technologies, exhibiting at Printed Electronics USA in Santa Clara, CA on 14-15 November, booth A25.
Si-Cal and GSI have leveraged their combined 40 years being industry leaders in the roll to roll and sheet fed screen printing industry to become a leader in the field of printed electronics. We print conductive inks on state of the art printing lines with the capability to print on films, 1 to 10 mils thick. We print a wide variety of printed medical device products including electrodes for EKG and iontophoresis drug delivery, defibrillator pads, diagnostic test strips, radio opaque markers and on body stimulation sensors. We also print anti counterfeit RFID antennas, heaters and thermocouples. We have recently become involved in layered display materials and have through hole printing capabilities for micro-fluidic electrodes. Our wide format equipment has exceptional registration capability for very tight tolerances and we can print many functional ink layers extremely accurately with thermal and UV drying capabilities.
From a manufacturing perspective, PFS sensors/electronics can be manufactured using a "batch mode" or "sheet" process...similar to the process in the IC industry where each substrate is made on a one-step-at-a-time fashion versus a roll-to-roll (R2R) i.e. in a continuous process fashion. There are pros and cons of each. The following is an overview perspective of the printed electronics manufacturing process.
Nissha Si-Cal Technologies and it's division GSI Technologies is based in Burr Ridge, Illinois (Chicago area) operates one of the industry's most robust screen printing facilities in the in the western hemisphere. The Burr Ridge 65,000 s.f. printing plant offers both sheet fed and roll to roll screen printing capabilities with more roll to roll printing assets than any other facility in the United States or Canada. We work with our customers to determine the best solution for their requirements based on product specifications, total cost and production run volumes.
We consider sheet fed screen printing to be the best approach for small volume prototyping which is not cost effective for R2R. The sheet process is better for thicker films (min 3 mil to > 15 mil) due to processing issues w/ thin films; the sheet process requires minimum of 3 mil and ≥4 mil thick films are better for sheet fed screen printing. R2R can go down to 2mil thick / 50 micron films (even 1 mil, 25 micron) with multiple layers of functional inks. The sheet process is also better for higher cost films and for scenarios with more than 8-10 functional ink layers. It can print in a wider (30"+) format versus R2R which is generally at 20". Sheet "color to color" registration vs R2R is .004 vs .006. The sheet process needs camera alignment and gets slower to match R2R. From a line and spacing perspective, the sheet's superior performance is at 100 micron vs 150 for R2R.
On the other hand, registration is much easier in R2R. The R2R manufacturing process has a faster throughput and thus can be more cost effective. R2R requires far less handling and is easier to keep clean. There is uniform shrinkage and handing of films with R2R. Production speeds typically for R2R for printed electronics run at 30-40 ft / min which is substantially faster than sheet.
Printing speed is determined by the printing method and is faster on R2R screen printing versus sheet fed. R2R processing is less costly than sheet fed for higher volume requirements.
Si-Cal and GSI offer a well established and broad infrastructure which is required for the successful commercialization of any printed electronics sensor, display, antennae, heater or other types of conductive layers used to build printed electronics-based devices. This infrastructure encompasses:
  • Project management staff
  • Art department for layouts
  • Engineering and design of materials (inks, film)
  • Manufacturing/printing
  • Post manufacturing converting such as laser cutting
  • Test design capabilities post manufacturing
One of the other very distinct advantages of R2R printing is when the downstream converting process is also done from rolls which maintains manufacturing and cost efficiencies. Downstream converting includes in-line operations such as die cutting, laminating, applying foam, adding hydrogel and component attach. When converting is required, it is imperative to have the converting engineers participate in the very front-end discussions to successfully align all customer requirements.
In conclusion, there is a great deal of discussion and tradeoffs necessary for us to provide our customers with the optimum solution for their production needs and we would encourage you to contact us with your specific device requirements. Please stop by our booth A25 to receive a complimentary White Paper we have just published that elaborates in more detail on the above topics.
Jaye Tyler
Pres/CEO Nissha Si-Cal Technologies, GSI Technologies A Division of Si-Cal Technologies
Si-Cal/GSI is A Nissha Company
401-578-4090 C
Learn more at the next leading event on the topic: Business and Technology Insight Forum. Boston, June 2019 External Link on 4 - 6 Jun 2019 at Boston, USA hosted by IDTechEx.