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FLEXO Magazine : September 2011
Technologies & Techniques Benchmarking Characteristics Functional Printed electronics for Flexography By Tessa libby The printing of solar cells, electroluminescent inks, batteries, OLED displays and lighting, photovoltaics, e-paper, sensors, transistors and memory cells are all applications being explored within the printed electronics field. Currently the industry has a large knowledge base for the printed characteristics of graphic printing, but there is a dearth of information and understanding with respect to key characteristics for functional printing, such as printed elec- tronics, which generally require much more precise repro- duction specifications. Printed electronics comprise a unique application for print- ing because the product’s functionality is significantly more important than its visual appeal. Many characteristics and qualities determine a printing method’s contribution toward the production of printed electronics. To discover the feasibility of flexography as a key process for printed electronics, it is necessary to benchmark five categories: ink film thickness, surface uniformity, registration tolerance, edge definition and minimum feature size. The repeatability and predictability of these characteristics is vital. A recent experiment, conducted at California Polytechnic Uni- versity set out to establish and document those benchmarks, as it sought to evaluate flexo’s potential to produce printed electronics. Finding are summarized here. Suited for PartnerShiP • Printed electronics comprise a unique application for printing because the product’s functionality is signifi- cantly more important than its visual appeal. • To discover the feasibility of flexography for printed electronics, it is necessary to benchmark five catego- ries: ink film thickness, surface uniformity, registration tolerance, edge definition and minimum feature size. • Flexography could be used with other printing methods to create an appropriate hybrid printing technology. • In-the-round plate mounting should be used to optimize flexography for the production of printed electronics. Figure 1: Test target. www.flexography.org sePTemBer 2011 FLeXO 71 5