Smart ink for smart packaging

Friday, 04 September, 2009

Smart packaging, which provides additional information to consumers in different languages, can read out instruction leaflets to visually-handicapped people or play an advertising spot on printed foil monitors, is already within reach. The road to achieving this kind of electronic wizardry is mapped out.

The key is intelligent ink. The strip conductors and components are made of organic polymers which are dissolved in a liquid phase, making them processable on a kind of inkjet printer.

The declared aim of the developers here is to be able to offer such a chip for use in the mass segments of the food industry at a price of less than one cent per unit. Within just a few years this should be a reality. These printed RFID labels will then be able to monitor temperature accurately all the time and store and transfer data.

And it’s not only this kind of passive data storage that is at the threshold of large-scale industrial manufacture. So too are active electronic circuits made up of transistors, resistors, LEDs and capacitors also manufactured with inkjet printers. One idea is even to supply energy from printed batteries or solar cells. That is the key to animated images or advertising jingles.

Printed electronics is opening up fascinating new potential: according to a report by market researchers NanoMarket, the market volume in electronic inks and substrates used in the manufacture of printed electronics will rise from US$1.1 billion in 2008 to over US$11.5 billion by 2015.

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