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 user 2009-10-30 at 12:28:41 pm Views: 64
  • #22845,2817,2354848,00.asp
    on Tuesday announced a new silver ink that it’s calling a breakthrough
    in printable electronics, a leading-edge concept that’s generated a lot
    of discussion but few actual products to date. Why? Precisely because
    of the issues that Xerox claims to have addressed.In concept, printable
    electronics is just what it sounds like: using a printer, basically an
    inkjet, to print electronic circuits. If one can do that reliably,
    electronic devices can be printed for far less than current methods
    cost. One can also print the devices on a variety of new materials.

    possibilities range from printing on flexible plastic (opening the door
    to displays you can roll up and put your briefcase), to paper and
    cardboard (for packaging that can give audio and video instructions for
    assembling a product, provide active reminders to take medicine or
    confirm whether you already took it), to fabric (which could allow
    wearable electronics – a T-shirt with a display, say, replacing a
    printed slogan for marketing or for showing support for a political
    candidate.)”We will be able to print circuits in almost any size from
    smaller custom-sized circuits to larger formats such as wider rolls of
    plastic sheets – unheard of in today’s silicon-wafer industry,” said
    Hadi Mahabadi, vice president and center manager of Xerox Research
    Centre Canada, in a statement. “We are taking this technology to
    product developers to enable them to design tomorrow’s uses for
    printable electronics.”

    Until now, the concept of printable
    electronics has been more promise than reality. One of the few actual
    applications has been printing antennas for RFID tags (the technology
    EZ-Pass or FastPass uses to charge passing cars tolls without forcing
    them to stop). Some have predicted that the ability to print the entire
    RFID tag, instead of just the antenna (and print it cheaply enough), is
    the point where printable electronics will begin to take off. Xerox
    says it could bring the cost of RFID tags down from the current dollar
    or so each to roughly a penny each, which could be that point.

    big hurdle for printable electronics has been finding a practical (as
    well as economical) way to implement it. Given the goal of being able
    to print on everything from paper, to cardboard, to plastic, one of the
    big problems has been that the temperature needed to melt silver ink
    for printing – the conductor needed for electronics – tends to be too
    high for the materials you want to print on. Plastic, for example,
    tends to melt, when the hot ink is applied.

    According to Xerox,
    one of the key benefits of its technology is that it can print with
    silver ink at a much lower temperature than competing technologies,
    which makes it much easier for the materials it’s printing on to
    survive. The ink has also been reformulated so that the molecules
    precisely align themselves in the best configuration to conduct

    Likewise, circuits can also be printed in non-clean
    room environments, Xerox claims. According to Xerox, printing with
    competing technologies in open-air environments results in circuits
    that don’t last long or aren’t consistently reliable. However, Xerox
    says that its technology doesn’t need a clean room any more than a
    standard printer needs one for putting ink or toner on paper.

    Xerox says that they’ll make the technology available to others.
    Assuming it does what Xerox is claiming, and assuming other companies
    agree it does what they need, this new technology may be just the
    breakthrough the industry needs to jump-start printable electronics as
    a major new approach to building electronic devices.