MEMS and Sensors

Mass producing inexpensive, printed and organic sensors

19 August 2020
Roll-to-roll manufacturing for printed electronics is becoming an important step toward enabling faster time-to-market and sensors may get a big boost with a new system for printed and organic devices. Source: InnovationLab

InnovationLab, a printed and organic electronics vendor, and Druckmaschinen AG, a printing manufacturer, are collaborating to develop and mass produce inexpensive, printed and organic sensors.

The market for printed sensors, including both organic and flexible sensors, is forecast to reach $4.5 billion by 2030, according to market research firm IDTechEx. This will include new use cases in automotive, healthcare, supply chain logistics and other markets.

The companies said these use cases will require a new approach to the design-to-production process of sensors. Typically, companies have manufactured sensors using conventional semiconductor foundries that require a nine-step process to fabricate each sensor. However, this approach is slow, and the iteration is costly, additionally the choices for substrates is limited to rigid materials such as silicon, making such sensors unsuitable for many use cases.

Printing sensors using roll-to-roll printing methods offer more choices in functional materials, substrates and deposition methods as well as flexibility of design to accommodate thousands of different applications.

Benefits to using printing sensors:

  • Printing sensors requires only a two-step process for reducing bill of materials (BOM).
  • Range of materials include printed and organic sensors such as organic semiconductors and nanomaterials, conductive inks, force- and temperature-sensitive materials.
  • Sensors can be printed on flexible materials such as textiles, foils that wrap around car batteries to monitor battery health in real-time and on bandages that monitor the pressure on or moisture of a wound. Printed flexible sensors on food items can also track supply chain conditions.

“Embarking on the development and industrial production of printed and organic electronics represents a milestone for Heidelberg and for Germany as an industrial player,” said Rainer Hundsdörfer, CEO of Heidelberg. “As we see it, our involvement in this production of high-tech sensors opens up the potential for growth in the two- to three-digit million euro range.”

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