The World of Printed Electronics


The World of Printed Electronics

What Is Printed Electronics?

Printed electronics refers to a combination of conductive materials as well as paint and ink systems that are applied to large areas of film/foil, paper, or other substrates in several layers and at low cost. Printed electronics performs some of the tasks of conventional electronics but offers special processing options. Conductive tracks, resistors, or other technical functions are achieved by die cutting of metal films or by screen printing of silver and carbon pastes, resulting in products such as antennas, heating elements, multifunctional user interfaces, or (touch) sensors.

This illustration shows an example of how a product solution may be structured with printed electronics.
This illustration shows an example of how a product solution may be structured with printed electronics.

What Benefits Does Printed Electronics Offer?

  • Creation of transparent and opaque electrically conductive structures
  • Strong, ultra-thin, flexible, lightweight, and translucent
  • Automatic or manual application: self-adhesive or non-self-adhesive
  • Contacting by connector, crimping, or spring contacts—optionally with additional corrosion protection
  • Use of different films/foils with diverse properties available (e.g., PI/PET)
  • Easy product integration due to self-adhesive coating

Translucent (left) and very flexible (right): These are just two examples of many benefits that printed electronics offers.

What Are Areas of Development in Printed Electronics?

The printed sensor platform is an example of a particularly successful development by Schreiner Group. Using printed conductor tracks, it combines a temperature and first-opening sensor with an NFC chip. Due to a printed NFC antenna, the chip can be read with smartphones that are equipped with suitable technology. Since the label has been developed for roll-toroll processes, it provides perfect prerequisites for automated downstream processing. In addition, our Research and Development team in the context of printed electronics is working on the integration of functionally conductive structures, chips, LEDs, as well as flat and flexible batteries.

A complex label with electrical functions: When the printed sensor platform from Schreiner PrinTronics won the first-place award in an OE-A Competition in the “Prototypes & New Products” category, the judging panel’s laudatory comments emphasized the fact that the RFID sensor platform far exceeds the prototype stage and was explicitly developed for roll-to-roll processes.

How Can Printed Electronics Be Combined with Conventional Electronics?

Contacting of printed and conventional electronics is achieved by adhesive bonding, crimping, or plug connections. This ensures high conductivity in spite of minimal film/foil composite thickness. In addition, the technology know-how of our experts assures corrosion protection at the contact points to guarantee homogenous and stable functionality throughout the product’s lifetime.

Plugging: The printed conductor tracks are plugged into the contact point at the PCB and fixed in place with a form-fit connection by folding down the black retainer.
Crimping is a bonding technology in which two components are joined together by means of plastic deformation such as forming, pressing, curling, or folding.
Adhesive bonding: Refers to bonding by means of an electrically conductive adhesive. This adhesive is filled with metal particles and applied in very small quantities between the printed silver track and the flexible PCB using screen printing or dispensing.

What Specific Customer Applications Exist for Printed Electronics?

With printed electronics the film or foil remains lightweight, thin, and flexible—one of the basic prerequisites for space-saving installation in a wide variety of products for diverse markets such as the pharmaceutical industry, automotive, and cards and payment.

Adherence to prescribed medications is decisive for the success of a clinical trial. Our smart packaging solutions successfully address this challenge and enhance therapy adherence. Due to integrated electronics, sensor technology, and NFC technology, standard forms of drug packaging turn into smart blister packs.
Printed electronics assists in wound healing: For the plasma therapy of Coldplasmatech GmbH, we have developed a specialty EIF (Electronics in Film) product.
Our film heaters based on printed electronics reliably remove ice and snow from sensors in interior and exterior areas of automobiles.

Who Are the Experts in Printed Electronics at Schreiner Group?

In addition to three business units, five competence centers focused on specific technologies and their further development operate under the Schreiner Group umbrella brand. Schreiner PrinTronics led by Johannes Becker is the competence center for printed electronics. It is closely connected with the Schreiner LogiData competence center that specializes in communications technologies with RFID and NFC—enabling the development of smart total solutions for customers.

Schreiner PrinTronics draws on in-depth know-how in printing of silver and carbon, insulation, die cutting of metal foils, as well as contacting and industrial roll-to-roll processing. Based on printed electronics, the exerts from Schreiner PrinTronics develop and implement particularly thin, flexible, and multi-layered film and foil products for electrical conduction, switching, measuring, and controlling. The basis for this work includes an extensively equipped measurement laboratory and pilot plant for qualifying materials and products, among other things.

Johannes Becker is in charge of the Schreiner PrinTronics competence center.