What are functional printing and printed electronics?

The concept Printed Electronics refers to electronic components, modules and applications that are fully or partially manufactured using conventional print processes such as offset printing, flexography, gravure, inkjet or screen printing.

The concept of functional printing refers to print with inks with special features such as biosensors and thermochromatic.

In the case of functional printing, the ink has the functionality itself, while in printed electronics an electronic component is formed by interactions that are generated by the deposition of different layers.

However, it also can be manufactured components or modules that are not electronic and nano-lenses or micro sieves.

What are the most popular applications of functional printing and printed electronics?

With printing processes it is possible to produce luminescent components such as OLEDs (organic light-emitting) organic polymer solar cells (OPVC), RFID antenna, biosensors and more. The combination of the different components makes it possible to make smart packaging or smart cards with different functions, for example, prevent counterfeiting or simply add a luminescent element to serve as an advertising medium which exhibits the brand.

Where are the differences between graphic printing or printing electronic components?

Comparison between graphic printing and functional materials printing

Requirement  Graphic printing
Functional Printing
Material or ink
Pigment Functional polymer
Structure Resolution
> 20 μm < 20 μm
Thickness of the Printed layer about  1 μm (0,001mm) depending on the application from only 100 nm (0,0001mm)
Register ± 5 μm 1 – 5 μm

Printed layer homogeneity
not important very important
Disolventes usados  not important   very important for the functionality of inks
Chemical purity of the inks not important very important
Need for clean room No  Depending on the application: yes

Are commercial products or commercial applications with this technology in the market?

In the market there are several products like bags with integrated wireless modules, OLED lamps or OLED screen phones. As printed electronics is part of organic electronics, it can not be distinguish whether the products are manufactured by printing processes or if materials are deposited by other processes such as centrifugation or thermal evaporation.

How is the economic market in this sector?

According to a study by IDTechEx Ltd. consultants of England this market will grow from 1.9 billion USD in 2009 to 57 billion dollars in 2019.