The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), the UK's technology innovation provider for printable electronics, successfully expanded its capabilities of its National Printable Electronics Centre to assist companies exploit the commercial opportunities offered by the Internet of Things (IoT) back in April 2018.
Since its launch, CPI has been in a unique position to work with companies and their products, both in the development, testing and optimisation of product design and in the development of manufacturing processes that can be proven in yield at relevant industrial volumes. While many companies may only specialise in an area of design, application or production, CPI is now capable to combine all three, to help companies of all sizes to create, generate and market test their products seamlessly.
One of the first companies to work with CPI in its new facility has been HP1 Technologies (HP1T) continuing their work on creating a low-cost printable pressure sensor capable of measuring high force values.
The aim was to develop a versatile, low cost device that could capture accurate data about the time, location, magnitude and direction of an impact experienced by a helmet in the event of an accident. The technology was initially designed for integration into crash helmets, to collect data about resulting head injuries from collisions for sports and leisure helmets.
Following the proof of concept development of a 64 and 128 sensor array, the company has created a platform technology and is developing new designs for integration into client's helmet lines and skull caps that can be connected to systems that enable data to be captured and transferred, as well as exploring with commercial partners in other markets including aerospace, utilities and manufacturing. These markets are not only limited to helmets and hard hats but also include structures and processes where measuring and monitoring impact is important, valuable and often under-explored.
Tim Moor, Chief Technology Officer at HP1 Technologies, said: "The benefit of being at CPI's new facility is access to technical expertise, print process and laboratory equipment during the front-end development phase of product innovations."
IoT applications require internet connected devices that combine sensing, energy sources and processing power. Frequently, a thin flexible form factor is also required and this may be achieved using a hybrid approach, combining the processing power of conventional electronics with the form factor of printed electronics. This is how CPI's capabilities and the extension to its National Printed Electronics Centre has substantially benefited its clients. Specific applications for these new resources could include packaging that can track and trace goods, packaging that can monitor the condition of the contents, for example medication and retail goods with thin, anti-counterfeit electronics.
The new thin, flexible form factors offered by printed electronics and the potential to embed electronics within products, offers designers unique opportunities to combine product with enhanced functionality and connectivity. The ability to integrate sensing, communications, display and energy sources into thin form factors and at volume, creates a new opportunity for IoT products. This includes the use of Near Field Communication (NFC), Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) as well as other forms of data transmission. This capability opens up new opportunities for wearable technologies, smart packaging and healthcare devices. The incorporation of these tags and others like them into products increases freedom for designers and provides the opportunities to make the next economy-driving innovations.
John Cocker, CPI's Director of Printable Electronics, said: "Our Newton Aycliffe centre provides us with cutting-edge facilities, leaving us uniquely placed to provide clients with thin, flexible electronics at an unparalleled scale to meet future technological needs.
"We are delighted to work with companies operating in this space. They recognise the potential of our investment and value us as a trusted partner with the resources and expertise that will help them develop their technology."