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Design Rules and Prototype Examples for Additive Printing of Flexible Electronics

Digital, additive printing of electronic materials allows rapid, highly customizable fabrication, and low-cost printed electronics are compelling for internet-of-things applications that require large volume of distributed devices, such as in sensor networks and smart packaging. The functionalities required of the embedded devices will vary over a broad spectrum from simple passive tags to powerful microprocessor controllers. At Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), we apply two progressive printing approaches: simple systems (<100 transistors) are inkjet printed entirely from solution electronic inks, whereas more complex functions are met by printing interconnects between silicon ICs and printed passive components, to combine the advantages of flexible printed devices with the high performance of silicon chips. With the recent improvements in solution electronic inks, it is now possible to build independent sensor systems out of printed thin-film devices. We have designed and fabricated prototypes of sensor tags based on printed organic devices. In this presentation I will discuss the design rules we learned in the course of developing this fully printed sensor platform. While roll-to-roll printing fabrication will enable extremely low-cost devices, the feature sizes are currently limited to tens of micron which restrict signal-processing performance. We tackled this computational power issue by combining silicon ICs with printed components, which leads us to explore various printing methods to additively pattern interconnects on non-planar surfaces. I will discuss the considerations for choosing among the different printing methods and provide examples of the hybrid systems we have built.

Ng, T.; Mei, P.; Ready, S. E.; Whiting, G. L.; Schwartz, D. E.; Veres, J. Design Rules and Prototype Examples for Additive Printing of Flexible Electronics. InterPACK 2015.; San Francisco, CA USA. Date of Talk: 7/6/2015