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21 Apr 2011 03:04:44

More demonstrators at electronics show

The Northern Way was a unique initiative in the UK, bringing together partners across the North of England to work together to improve the economic performance of the North. Its aim was to influence policy and delivery across the North, to join up thinking and encourage collaboration. Its Innovation Programme had printed and printable electronics as one of the technology sectors that was taken forward.

As part of its initiatives, the Northern Way sponsored a competition that started about 2 years ago, which required companies to come up with proposals for making printed electronics demonstrators with technologies currently available. Out of all the proposals, 11 were selected and out of those, 8 were funded in order to continue their development.

On March 16 2011, the results of these collaborative projects were presented at an event that took place at the Printable Electronics Technology Centre (PETEC) in Sedgefield, County Durham. Demonstrators were shown, proving the competency of the companies involved in the projects, some of which had never been involved with printing electronics before. The start-up Polyphotonix, working on a variety of sectors including design, general lighting and automotive, demonstrated their flexible OLEDs whereas several demonstrators included Cambridge start-up Novalia as a partner:

• Novalia with Chesapeake printing smart packaging for medicines, which was printed on a conventional pharma carton printing line, with a controller (that's the Novalia part) that can be added into the carton using a standard converting line.
• Novalia with Print Yorkshire produced interactive posters: one for a bar, helping you choose a cocktail by answering 4 simple questions about yourself, one for the National Centre for Citinzenship and Law which made an interactive poster for primary school children in Nottingham. The prototypes were manufactured using high volume commercial print processes.
• Novalia on their own made an interactive board game and with Tigerprint and pragmatIC printing (formerly nano eprint) they are working on sample birthday cards (no sample of these was demonstrated but will be completed in the next few months).

NTERA is utilizing their electrochromic technology working with Tullis Russell making security enhanced tickets, checking their authenticity. High value tickets that are usual targets for counterfeiting are an interesting market for the security printing market and the integration of multiple security layers on a paper substrate means that low cost electrochromics are a very suitable addition.

SAFC Tech is working on printing low temperarure precursors of ITO and demonstrated glass samples with conductive ITO coated on them while Ryedale Printing Works demonstrated a breath sampler using UV lithography processed sensors.

Finally, NTERA and MAPP systems showcased their fully functional demonstrator, integrating interactive membrane switch technology with a printed display.

The overall message of the meeting was that there's already a multitude of applications ready to go to market right now, and they don't need to be made in clean rooms and without prohibitively expensive capital equipment investments. PETEC seems to have received that message and is currently decommissioning part of their old facility from being a clean room and will make it into a "traditional printing environment" type of facility where people can experience the kind of work environment a print house is dominated by, thus helping in the development of the supply chain for lower cost printable electronics.

With the IDTechEx Printed Electronics Europe 2011 conference and exhibition just around the corner, all these demos will be available to view on the trade show floor, at the Electronics, Sensors & Photonics KTN booth. Novalia, PETEC, SFAC Tech and MAPP Systems will also be part of the exhibition, giving the opportunity to attendees to discuss these developments face to face.

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