The Institute for Printing Presses and Printing Methods (IDD) at Darmstadt University of Technology and Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg) are extending their joint research platform till 2012.
The two partners have been working on the "functional printing" development project since 2007. The main aim of the project is to develop new applications for the print media industry. This involves devising new surface-finishing technologies that enable print shops - and packaging printers in particular - to stand out from the crowd.
Functional here means properties that enhance the print medium, such as new, decorative, visual, electrical, and electronic functional characteristics. The first three years of collaboration successfully culminated in predevelopment work for new decorative elements and simple display elements known as demonstrators. Examples include display elements based on electroluminescence or thermochrome inks that can be used for special effects on packaging and a display stand with light effects for use at the point of sale.
"Our motivation is based on developing a feel for what the market of the future needs and investigating this using feasibility studies," explains Manfred Jurkewitz, Head of Research and Development at Heidelberg.
Research work is currently devoted to new applications for the print media industry. The first examples are promising and include innovative new effects with structural coating and special optical effects in 3D. "We are looking to develop further visual effects and applications that lie between the print applications of today and organic electronics applications of the future," says Professor Edgar Dörsam, Director of the IDD, describing the joint research.
Heidelberg is providing the relevant printing technology for the cooperation project - a Gallus RCS 330-HD rotary press. The press is tailored to development needs and has been configured accordingly. It has four printing stations and four printing processes - flexographic, screen, offset, and gravure. The printing units for the individual processes are separate modules that can be operated in every position of the printing stations.
The sequence of processes is therefore freely configurable and can thus be adapted to numerous requirements for new applications. Space for further equipment such as dryers and special measuring technology is available between the individual printing stations. "The applications we're developing on this modular platform are then transferred to the Heidelberg sheetfed press sector to ensure our Speedmaster customers can also benefit from them," explains Dr. Martin Schmitt-Lewen, project manager at Heidelberg for the cooperation project with the IDD.
Applications outside the print media environment
Further applications are possible outside the print media sector. This applies in particular to the up-and-coming area of organic electronics. The fields for applications here are even wider and more varied. Examples include organic photovoltaics, OLED (organic light emitting diode) systems for displays and illumination, sensor technology, and applications relating to electrical/electronic circuits with transistors, for instance.
Image: Additional examples of the collaboration between Darmstadt University of Technology and Heidelberg include predevelopment work for new decorative effects for high-finish print products.
These topics are being covered by Heidelberg in a further research project that is also being conducted in partnership with the IDD and is backed by a large research association publicly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Heidelberg's role, in collaboration with the IDD, is cross-functional, spanning various applications and including the development of (print) processes for thin layers. This is putting the development of "functional printing" on an even broader footing and may subsequently also open up new areas of application outside the print media world.
This activity, which aims at developing new processes for manufacturing organic electronics, is a key project in the "Organic Electronics Forum" cluster of excellence. This is a cooperation network of three DAX companies, eight large international enterprises, five SMEs, and eleven research institutes and institutions of higher education, including two elite universities.
The objectives of the cluster of excellence are to create a world-beating research, development, and production site for organic electronics, one of the most attractive locations for current and future specialists, and the world's leading center of innovation for knowledge transfer and company startups.
The 27 enterprises, institutions of higher education, and research institutes are working together on the research projects, which are receiving funding from the BMBF to the tune of EUR 40 million, in the future technology of organic electronics.
T-Ink, Inc is very successful in the USA in selling a continuous stream of imaginative printed electronics products to blue chip corporations and Toppan Printing has done something similar in Japan but there is, as yet, no company in Europe with such success.
Top Image: The joint research platform between Darmstadt University of Technology and Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG is developing printed light elements, such as this demonstrator with the IDD logo.
For more attend: Printed Electronics USA 2010