Printed Electronics: Endless Possibilities for Innovation

Have you ever stopped to think about how many times you use something electronic in a day? Electronics have become a staple in people’s lives all over the globe, allowing us to communicate instantly with one another, make purchases online or in a store, and even get from Point A to Point B.

A great deal of engineering & design work can go into making these electronics, as well as complicated manufacturing processes. Thanks to advances in technology electronics are getting easier and cheaper to manufacture. One of the most efficient new manufacturing methods is the ability to print an entire electrical device on various substrates, a process resulting in Printed Electronics. Before we get into how these flexible devices can benefit you & your company, let’s first explain how they work.

What are Printed Electronics?

Various printing methods can be used to deposit electrically functional & optical inks onto a substrate. The inks can be deposited in any pattern to suit the type of application it is being made for. The result is a fully functional electronic device that can be thin & flexible, or more durable depending on what it’s for. Widths of traces can vary from super fine to broad.

Materials used for printed electronics can include polyester, polycarbonate, polyimide, and FR-4. Substrates can then be coated to protect the printed pattern. Top-performing inks, coatings, & plating include:

  • Silver
  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Nickel
  • Gold
  • Silver/Carbon

The printed electronic devices can then be molded, cut (laser or die), or formed into any required shape.

Printed Electronics Copyright Wilson-Hurd 2014

What are the Advantages?

The versatility of printed electronics is a huge draw for all manufacturers and markets. Some common applications for printed electronics include:

  • Antennas (VHF, UHF, RF)
    • Digital TV
    • Wireless
    • Security
  • Disposable Medical Items
  • Flexible Circuits
  • Flexible Pressure & Temperature Sensors
  • Automotive Embedded Circuits
  • Contour-Shaped Products
  • Printed Memory & Batteries
  • Wearable Technology

Printed electronics have also been used for flexible displays, animated posters, smart labels, and even clothing. When you start to think about what could be done in the future with printed electronics and all the different uses that they could serve, a multitude of possibilities open up.

While versatility is one huge benefit of printed electronics, another is low-cost volume fabrication. With the ability to create more electronic devices at a lower cost to you, it is a win-win situation. Some companies have even started to develop disposable printed electronics specifically for the medical industry where sterilization is always a concern. Patients can use the electronic device, and then dispose of it when they are done with it, something you wouldn’t want to do with an expensive circuit board.

Printed Electronics 3 Copyright Wilson-Hurd 2014

What are the Possibilities?

Every day scientists and engineers are coming up with innovative new ways that printed electronics can be used in all kinds of applications. It could be that someday instead of having to visit your doctor for a check-up, you put on a disposable monitor that can send your health information straight to your doctor’s office over the internet.

Perhaps someday we’ll be able to wear workout clothing that can monitor your heart rate, distance, & number of calories burned during a run, or maybe we’ll be able to wear a t-shirt that uses solar activity to charge our cell phone.

There are an infinite amount of possibilities; your next step is discovering what printed electronics can do for you.

Printed Electronics 1 Copyright Wilson-Hurd 2014

Wilson-Hurd Manufacturing specializes in the production of custom electronic control products, printed electronics, contract medical manufacturing, point-of-purchase displays, and metal & plastic nameplates, overlays, dials & panels. Wilson-Hurd was founded in 1904, and is headquartered in Wausau, WI, with additional locations in Berlin, WI.

For more information on Wilson-Hurd and our capabilities, visit our website at www.wilsonhurd.com, and contact us at 1.800.950.5013 or at sales@wilsonhurd.com

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