The printing electronics technologies bring new possibilities in the field of electronics that deals with development of electronic circuits. Printing equipment makes it possible to apply special ink (conductive, semiconductor, resistive, etc.) to the surface of a flat substrate and, thus, to form active and passive elements on it, as well as interelement connections in accordance with the electrical diagram.
The appearance of printed electronic circuits is associated with the development of new materials that, under certain conditions, can replace silicon in electronic and computer technologies. It turned out that some substances (including organic polymers and nanoparticles of metallic compounds) can be added to liquids that used as paints or inks. They are applied to substrates and then it creates active or passive devices, such as thin film transistors or resistors.
Printing typically uses common printing equipment suitable for defining patterns on material, such as screen printing, flexography, gravure, offset lithography, and inkjet. Like in conventional printing, in printed electronics, the ink layer is applied over a release layer to each other. Therefore, coordinated development of printing methods and ink materials are the most important tasks of printing technologies.
The term Printed Electronics
The term printed electronics is often related to organic electronics or plastic electronics, in which one or more inks are composed of carbon-based compounds. These other terms refer to the ink material, which can be deposited by solution-based, vacuum-based or other processes. Printed electronics, in contrast, specifies the process, and, subject to the specific requirements of the printing process selected, can utilize any solution-based material. This includes organic semiconductors, inorganic semiconductors, metallic conductors, nanoparticles, nanotubes, etc.
The characteristics of printed electronics usually less attractive than those of conventional electronic devices, but the latter are more expensive. The most important benefit of printing is low-cost volume fabrication. Printed electronics is expected to facilitate widespread, very low-cost, low-performance electronics for applications such as flexible displays, smart labels, decorative and animated posters, and active clothing that do not require high performance.
A lower cost enables use of products in more applications. An example is RFID-systems that provide contactless identification of goods in trade and transport. In some areas, such as the production of LEDs, printing does not affect performance of products. Printing on flexible substrates allows the creation of electronics products on curved surfaces, for example, mounting solar panels on roofs of cars.