Printed electronics have gained a lot of momentum with recent advancements in printing technology. Lots of exciting new materials, processes, equipment, and designs can now be developed using this technology. As a result, several industries are flourishing and set to be disrupted using printed electronics. In this article, we will discuss what is printed electronics and present some incredible applications. For further information see the IDTechEx report on Flexible, Printed and Organic Electronics 2020-2030: Forecasts, Technologies, Markets.
What Are Printed Electronics?
Printed electronics utilize a range of printing methods to create different kinds of electrical devices on sustainable substrates. Printed electronics offer many benefits such as lower costs, flexibility, transparency, reliability, and improved overall performance. As a result, it has become invaluable to several industries, most notably healthcare, fashion, sports, aerospace, retail, packaging, media, and transit. Printed electronics are widely used in medical devices, flexible screens, biosensors, interactive books, office supplies, watches, RFID tags, batteries, intelligent labels, solar cells and more.
Real Life Applications of Printed Electronics
Printed electronics has opened the door to new opportunities to print flexible electrical circuits directly onto various substrates like plastics, papers, clothes and more. This new generation of electronics are component-free, non-rigid, reliable, flexible, and can be integrated into different objects. Engineers, companies and makers alike can now push the boundaries with products without the limitations of traditional electronic components. Here are just a few examples of how printed electronics is revolutionizing healthcare, connected sports, smart labels and fashion
Printed electronics are playing a major role in the technological shift in the healthcare industry, especially within the field of wearable technology. Medical systems need a reliable and sustainable alternative to traditional hands-on patient monitoring, and printed electronics has made medical devices more convenient and also comfortable to wear. Wearable healthcare products can collect user's health and fitness details and send these details to healthcare professionals. Here are two products making movements in the healthcare industry:
Smart Health Patch
Smart health patch is a widely used wearable sensor in the medical field. It is applied directly to the patient's skin with an adhesive and contains embedded electronics for monitoring the patient's physiological signs like pulse, heart rate, and other human body functions. These smart health patches improve the overall quality of healthcare because of the benefits gained from the long-term availability of medical data.
For over a decade, Screentec has been manufacturing customized disposable medical electrodes using its experience in printed electronics. Screentec manufactures high-quality wet electrodes coated with hydrogel to get a better-quality signal. These wet electrodes are pretty easy to set up as they require minimal instructions. EEG sensors record electrical signals from the head by placing electrodes on certain areas of the head to measure a subject's response to stimulation, like pain or a button press.
Connected Sports is another industry experiencing new applications in printed electronics. Sportspeople are now able to monitor vital information regarding their body performance and improve their recovery time after games using printed electronics and smart tech. Some of the sports products using printed electronics are:
Gx Sweat Patch
Gatorade's Gx Sweat Patch is a fitness wearable that tests your sweat and tells you how and when to rehydrate to recover faster and avoid cramps after working out. It can offer insights into the amount of body fluid lost and how much sodium the body needs to recover efficiently. The Gx app attaches these hydration insights to particular workouts and provides actionable recommendations to help athletes in meeting their training goals.
Force Sensing Shoe Insoles
Force Sensing Resistors measure the force applied to a particular area and then forward that information via specified output electronics. Force Sensing Resistors are widely used in athletic apparel like shoe insoles. A force-sensing shoe insole helps in detecting the area with the maximum foot pressure. Monitoring the pressures can help design better running shoes and increase the performance of athletes.
Printed electronics enable the integration of low-power consumption and low-cost displays for labels and packaging. Ynvisible has excelled tremendously in this field and their smart labels can authenticate goods in the supply chain and help track if the product is real, if someone tampered with the product, or if the right person consumed the product. Some of the applications of printed electronics in smart labels are:
Smart Expiry Date Label
Ynvisible and Innoscentia AB have created a dynamic expiry date label to enable real-time food quality monitoring. It detects spoiled food before the expiry date to significantly reduce food wastage. In addition, it will help achieve product freshness through scalable IoT packaging solutions and create a more sustainable food value chain in the future to minimize food waste.
StellaGuard is a smart security label solution developed by Covectra that enables brand owners and retailers to identify and authenticate products to combat counterfeiting. It combines smart technologies to provide universal brand protection by leveraging the advantages of a barcode to provide immediate authentication with copy-detect protection. It combines two methods of authentication - serialization and the use of random numbers and holographic star patterns, thus providing a practically impossible label to counterfeit.
SpotSee, an iOT end-to-end solution provider in collaboration with Ynvisible has developed TempSafe Electrocard, a temperature indication label for cold-chain and temperature-controlled shipment and storage of goods. It is a low-power, branded, calibrated, and fully customizable temperature indication label.
Engineers are developing methods to transform existing cloth items into smart clothes to enable smooth communication with your phone, computer, and other machines. Some of the popular products in the fashion industry that use printed electronics are:
Flexible Printed Heaters
Flexible Printed Heaters are flexible screen-printed heaters that can be customized according to user requirements. These heaters are thin, flexible, lightweight, durable, and can be easily incorporated into products. They use electrically resistive inks for turning current into heat.
They are suitable for wearables as they allow the heater design to be very flexible so is widely used in heated medical back or knee braces.
Hangtag Smart Price Label
Hangtag is a smart electronic label from Digety that can locate the current location and movement of the label and its corresponding goods. It has replaced the traditional paper labels because of its lightweight, elegant design and thin shape. The integrated e-paper display from Ynvisible can easily display any vital information like price, availability, and item number.
This article was contributed by Ynvisible, leaders in printed and flexible electronics, an emerging and IoT-enabling technology sector. They are on a mission to bring things to life by combining printed electronics with their patented e-paper display technology.