The Electronics Yorkshire Centre is located near the city of Leeds, in the historic county of Yorkshire in northern England. Electronics Yorkshire is a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to support and assist the growth of the electronics sector with technical support, networking and electronics training. Print Yorkshire is a recognised voice of print both nationally and internationally, and aims to promote the print and print packaging industry in Yorkshire, and to create business opportunities for buyers and sellers of print.
Electronics Yorkshire and Print Yorkshire cooperated in organising a networking seminar with the theme Printed Electronics - Technologies and Applications, which brought together a diverse group representing the electronics industry, the print industry, academic institutions and technology developers, to share information on recent developments in printed electronics.
Dave Williams, Electronics Yorkshire Business Development Manager, opened the seminar and introduced the first speaker, Professor Martin Goosey from the Innovative Electronics Manufacturing Centre (IeMRC) at the University of Loughborough, whose presentation was entitled "Printed Electronics and the IeMRC." Professor Goosey explained that "printed electronics" and "plastic electronics" were general terms used to describe electronics based on semiconducting organic polymeric materials, which are deposited using additive or printing techniques, with many applications offering a competitive or superior mix of novel performance and manufacturing economics. Printing technologies offered light-weight and robust electronics at low cost on large area flexible substrates, and were being developed by by over 3,000 companies, universities and research institutes worldwide. The market for printed electronics was just beginning to emerge, and in 2010 the market for printed and thin film electronics was expected to reach $1.92bn. Immediate applications were in RFIDs and OLED displays manufactured using organic thin film transistor technology.
IeMRC were currently supporting three printed electronics projects: Brunel University were using lithographic techniques to produce printed battery structures based on zinc-manganese dioxide chemistry, with silver current collectors, which were being commercialised by manufacturers of "amplified experience" greetings cards. Brunel were also currently collaborating on applications with a pharmaceutical company. University of Surrey were studying the effects of deposition technique on the electrical and morphological characteristics of poly (3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene), PEDOT, an organic alternative to indium tin oxide. Inkjetting gave better control and less material wastage than spin coating, but required careful attention to coating and drying conditions in order to achieve comparable electrical properties.
The universities of Oxford, Leeds, Manchester and Bangor were collaborating in a new IeMRC flagship project on roll-to-roll vacuum-processed carbon based electronics, adapting vacuum-coating techniques already well-established in the food-packaging industry as the basis of a manufacturing technology for high-volume low-cost electronic devices for anti-counterfeiting, brand protection and product tracking applications. It had already been demonstrated that simple transistors could be fabricated in high yield and at high-speed through this roll-to-roll process, and the main technology hurdles to be overcome were the optimisation of process conditions for the deposition of organic and inorganic thin-film multilayer structures.
Professor Goosey commented on the growing importance of nanotechnology as a key enabler in printed electronics and the wide range of potential applications that had been identified for carbon nanotubes, which had good mechanical, thermal and electrical properties making them ideal for use in conductive composites and inks, and copper nanowires, which could be coated from solution in a roll-to-roll process to form a transparent conducting layer as a potential replacement for indium tin oxide, particularly in flexible displays and thin solar panel applications.