Origami Electronics Demonstrator Showcases PE’s Capabilities

When people think of printed electronics applications, images of an electronic component that is printed on a flexible substrate often comes to mind. However, paper is also a viable substrate.

The possibilities of paper were delivered in a simple way during Printed Electronics USA 2012, which is concluding today at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The project, a foldable sailboat with simple printed circuits made up of silver ink that light up a yellow and red light when pressed together, makes the point that printed electronics can come in all forms, from high functionality to simpler circuits.

The Origami Electronics idea was created between IDTechEx, the organizer of the PE USA 2012 conference, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Graphics Communication Department and its students, led by professor Dr. Malcolm Keif.

Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx, said that feedback from attendees of previous PE USA ad PE Europe showed an interest in seeing how products were produced, leading to the Origami Electronics demonstrator.

“People want to see how products are made, so we wanted to show attendees how printing functional products can be done,” Das said. “Origami Electronics came about because we wanted to create a sample. It’s a nice simple demonstrator. Cal Poly came up with the idea, and we have received good feedback.”

“We wanted to focus on a project using paper that is interactive, and at the end of the day, we decided to come up with an origami project,” Dr. Keif said. “We had two and a half months from start to finish, standing right here at the show. People think it is interesting, and that it shows what printed electronics can do.”

The use of paper was a key consideration for the project.

“This project shows the capabilities of paper as a substrate,” said Stan Farnsworth, vice president of marketing for NovaCentrix, who supplied the silver ink. “A lot of emphasis in printed electronics is on polymer substrates, but paper is also viable, and is an attraction for its cost and sustainability basis. Consumer-oriented applications tend to not require high functionality but rather cost and visual interest, and this shows a high-volume, rapid adoption application. We also need to address low functionality applications, which can drive significant volumes with a short time to market as well.

“I like the fact that Cal Poly’s students are gaining an awareness of printed electronics, as Dr. Malcolm Keif’s Graphics group created the concepts for this device.,” Farnsworth added. “We used available commercial technologies and available commercial manufacturing methods to show that his is not a limited novelty item, but can be quickly and widely printed. “

Blue Spark Technologies supplied the paper batteries used for the project, and worked with EsterLine to supply the LD attachments.

“This offers attendees a live demonstration of how printed electronics is manufactured,” said Matthew Ream, vice president of marketing for Blue Spark.
In addition to Cal Poly, NovaCentrix, Blue Spark and Esterline, other partners included Sappi (paper), 3M (conductive tape) and Fujifilm Dimatix (UV inkjet printer).