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FEATURE ELECTRICAL & ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS


PRINTED ELECTRONICS: introducing a new wave of smart solutions


In addition to smart pharmaceutical packaging, printed electronics are growing in demand in other


sectors, as Tim Congdon, european business development manager at CCL Design, explains


I


t has been estimated that the global industry for printed electronics will


grow from US$25.4bn (in 2015) to US$65bn by the end of 2024, benefiting from consumer and corporate demand for smart displays and smart devices. The requirement for products such as smart packaging has increased thanks to applications such as alarms and smart thermometers being used in pharmaceutical and food products. Research, for example, has shown that one fifth of patients do not take their medication correctly – so devices are now being developed with integrated clocks and circuits to register tablet removal and provide reminders/guidance on when next to take the medication. This growing demand for printed


electronics is also because they have become much more secure, flexible and cost-effective to produce. They have paved the way for more flexible devices and are also easy to integrate into products. Printed electronics are being used


increasingly in industrial control panels, medical instrumentation and various hand-held controls, and are now finding their way into our homes – with everything from kitchen appliances such as fridges, freezers and washing


machines, to ‘home tech’ such as wearables, computers and phone accessories, utilising both decorative and functional technologies. Good examples of decorative


functionality are simple back lighting, ‘hid till Lit’, layers providing capacitive touch capability, sensory no touch


and visual information. Below this, layers of printed electronics can be added to provide back lighting, control linkages and rechargeable power supplies. Finally, specific adhesives can be applied to ensure flexibility and a durable mounting to the product. CCL has worked with many customers on developing different forms of printed electronics. The company recently worked with a global manufacturer on a project which required a logo to be back lit when a product function was activated. The manufacturer approached CCL as it was experiencing issues and needed to discuss with the company how it could


“Printed electronics are being used increasingly in


industrial control panels, medical instrumentation and various hand-held controls, and are now finding their way into our homes”


controls, imbedded NFC, printed batteries, and force touch.


FLEXIBLE SOLUTIONS With the search for smaller and more flexible solutions, more and more decorative finishes are being developed by using a mixture of technologies incorporating thin film metallisation mixed with micro fine resin moulding to give a metal finish or deep black or coloured mirror effect. The effects are endless but can include brushed steels, carbon fibre or wood grain. These can then be enhanced with either hidden or overt colours for logos, control icons,


It has been estimated that the global industry for printed electronics will grow from US$25.4bn (in 2015) to US$65bn by the end of 2024


Nick Minns (L) and Tim Congdon (R) of CCL Design UK, pictured at CCL’s factory in Chippenham


resolve them. As the logo was positioned away from the main control board, light pipes had been used to connect the light source situated on the control board to the logo. This, however, was causing two issues: a complex light pipe to the logo which was difficult to produce and costly; and the light pipe was causing a light spot in the middle of the logo. To resolve both issues, CCL printed


a logo using a localised LED with a defusing lens – this provided a smooth back light with an overall thickness of less than 1.5mm. This solution also provided a mass manufacturing product which reduced overall production costs and, at the same time, it could be simply activated via the control board by routing two thin wires to the logo. It also provided a far crisper and superior effect to the logo – enhancing the product aesthetics.


PRE-PRODUCTION Before going into production, it is worth understanding that there are many factors to consider when blending both decorative and functional aspects into a printed electronics product, and as the market is growing so rapidly, working with a manufacturer that has the capability to deliver the latest and most innovative solutions will ensure that you get the desired result.


CCL Design UK www.ccldesignelectronics.com


10 DECEMBER/JANUARY 2019 | DESIGN SOLUTIONS 


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