It's no secret that Germany is a global leader in the support of the development of the Printed Electronics industry. Government incentives, scientific and technological excellence alongside a strong educational background and highly skilled workforce are some of the reasons behind the success stories behind German technology innovators. In the past few days, several announcements have done nothing but reinforce the leadership position of German companies in the flexible electronics space.
Printechnologics & 3M
This week, 3M, the American multinational conglomerate, through its New Ventures business, invested in Printechnologics, a German printed electronics specialist, aimed at joint efforts for providing innovative solutions for electronic circuitry on paper or foil. The exact terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Printechnologics develops custom alterations to conventional printing methods with extremely high scalability and cost advantages to address mass markets. Stefan Gabriel, president of 3M New Ventures, commented: "Printechnologics has developed game changing technology enabling printed circuit structures on paper. We see various innovative application areas that provide significant growth opportunities and access to new markets for 3M."
"Among others, we explore anti-fraud solutions that could save billions of dollars for our customers. Possible applications are smart packaging to prevent counterfeiting or anti-fraud solutions in the gaming market in connection with our multi-touch displays," added Voyl Divljakovic, vice president and general manager of the Electronic Solutions Division.
In an effort to predict future direction for low cost electronics integrated into paper products, Printechnologics sees the potential for them to include electronic data carriers enabling them to store data and communicate with the environment. Following that assumption, the company is connecting print products with online content, exploring the new possibilities that emerge there.
Jan Thiele, co-founder of Printechnologics, added: "Printechnologics offers one of the most cost efficient printing solutions for electronics on paper. The results are environment-friendly, low-cost data structures that open up visionary possibilities in countless application areas. We are proud to work with an outstanding partner like 3M to explore new application fields outside of our current core business."
In the field of organic LEDs, Osram and its LED-affiliate Osram Opto Semiconductors are driving the technology shift on the lighting market and are currently building a pilot line for OLEDs in Regensburg, Germany.
In the next three years around €50 million will be invested in the new pilot production facility and in research on LED applications. Commissioning of the production line is scheduled for mid-2011.
One focus of the research work in Regensburg will be on the continued development of the manufacturing processes on the pilot line in preparation for mass OLED production. At the same time, advances in OLED product development in terms of brightness, efficiency and service life can be seamlessly transferred to production technology, thereby achieving long-term reductions in manufacturing costs.
The new facility will initially be run with around 200 employees with long-term plans to recruit new employees in line with market developments.
At the end of 2009, Osram became the first company to launch a product for installation in designer luminaires - the beautifully designed, albeit slightly expensive "Orbeos".
While carrying out development work in cooperation with the Institute of Applied Photophysics (IAPP) at Dresden University, Heliatek GmbH of Dresden has set an efficiency record for organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells: with an efficiency of 8.3% on an active surface area of 1.1 cm2, measured by Heliatek and independently confirmed by the Fraunhofer ISE CalLab in Freiburg, this sets a new world record for OPVs.
What is interesting about the figure is that it's not just scientifically pertinent, but also of great practical relevance, as the measurements of the record-breaking cell are those of a PV module currently in the pipeline. This means the record-breaker has all the properties and characteristics of a future product, as the individual cell strips can be connected to one another in series, similarly to other thin-film technologies. Furthermore, all the materials used can be produced economically and processed efficiently as a photoactive layer in the Heliatek vacuum production unit.
Heliatek's technology is based on the thermal deposition of organic molecules in vacuum. "With this new record-breaking efficiency for organic photovoltaic cells using small molecules we have succeeded to surpass, in the laboratory, the efficiency rates amorphous silicon PV cells typically achieve in current production units. At the same time we could prove the processability of the novel light-absorbing molecules developed by Heliatek. We are convinced that in taking this step we have set another milestone in the global development of cost-effective, efficient solar modules", explained Heliatek's CTO Dr Martin Pfeiffer.
As a reminder, in 2009 Heliatek secured an €18 Million investment in order to set up their pilot production facility, with current plans for the first products to hit the market place aimed for the beginning of 2012.
For more information on worldwide developments in the field of flexible electronics, attend IDTechEx's Printed Electronics/Photovoltaics-"Thin film innovations" USA 2010 conference and exhibition in Santa Clara, California, where companies like 3M and Printechnologics will be joined by a multitude of other companies and research institutes, showcasing the latest developments and disruptive technologies.
Image: The Orbeos from OSRAM
For more attend: Printed Electronics & Photovoltaics USA 2010 .