eeDesignIt recently attended the international exhibition and conference for the printed electronics industry, LOPEC 2018. Here, we report on the Technical Conference, ‘Smart and hybrid systems’, which had keynote speakers from ABInBev, TactoTek, American Semiconductor and CeNTI.
‘Bringing new technology platforms to life, in a corporate environment’
The Global Innovation Director for Packaging Structure, Materials and Design at ABInBev, Keenan Thompson, presented a keynote at the LOPEC 2018 Technical Conference ‘Smart and hybrid systems’. Thompson’s talk was titled: ‘Bringing new technology platforms to life, in a corporate environment’.
Thompson spoke extensively about how to pitch new technology in a language that would be understood in corporate environments, he suggested: “Think of short narratives that are relevant to the people that you are selling to.”
He gave advice on the best way to start building a technology platform, and for reference he used their smart packaging product – the Fifa cup for the World Cup.
Essentially, the beer cups are embedded with LEDs and sensors – thanks to printed electronics – and the more noise the crowd in the stadium makes, the more the cup reacts to its environment through flashing colored lights.
A simple idea which has been extremely effective. He explained that its success so far in 40 countries with the sale of eight to ten million cups around the world is because they, “Went to the world stage, and went as big as possible.”
ABInBev saw an opportunity to center a product around the world’s largest beer brand and biggest sports stage, to do something that fits both of the brands’ positioning perfectly.
“There are a lot of things that printed electronics and smart electronics can do within this industry,” Thompson said. “Have patience and find the buyer that is going to go big with your product.”
The global stage is waiting to be disrupted by the potential of printed electronics, and while interactive beer cups may not change the world, they will certainly change the user experience at the World Cup for those who drink a pint of Budweiser.
‘Merging form and function with injection molded structural electronics’
For 100 years, electronics devices have been “components in a box,” said Antti Keränen, CTO and co-founder of TactoTek. From smartphones to cards, all these electronic devices have all been components in a box.
Changing the structure of electronics with plastic structures will mean, “no more components in a box.”
TactoTek is a leader in Injection Molded Structural Electronics (IMSE), and Keränen described them as the “building blocks”. IMSE is the hybrid integration of printed electronics together with chip-base electronics with injection molded structures. ISME is the key to break 100 years of ‘components in a box’.
The Tactotek process flow overview
The integration of printed circuitry and traditional electronic components inside of plastics.
- Print decoration
- Print wiring, touch controls and antennas
- Mount components on flat film
- In-mold smart insert
“Everything is already available, no new machines or technology – just new knowledge,” said Keränen.
Representative use cases:
- Illumination and styling; TactoTek lightstrip
- 3D HMI surfaces: TactoTek control surface
- Thin flexible parts and soft sensor components
“We are witnessing a global transformation in electronics design, as lightweight, shaped, rugged, structural electronics, where TactoTek excels, replaces the 100 years of components in a box approach,” stated Dr Peter Harrop, Charmain, IDTechEx.
- Lightweight: reduces weight 50-70%, no separate light guides and large PCBS
- Design freedom: new feature/function possibilities – seamless surfaces
- Durable and reliable: shock and impact resistant protected from
- Scalable mass production
- Excellent touch response
- Space efficient
- Simple assembly
- Fast product updates
- Faster to service
- Improved antenna performance
“There is a lot of dead space inside the automotive environment that can be used without compromising the design at all, you can still have the trims and decorations,” said Keränen. “These are some of the car interior use cases identified together with customers.”
Selected automotive interior use cases:
- Smart overhead control panel
- Sunroof/light controls, ambient light stripes
Selected automotive exterior use cases:
- IMSE antenna spoilers
- Touch on metal
- Touch on carbon
- Smart tailgates and lighting
IMSE enables highly aesthetic surfaces to become functional – so not just plastic. IMSE enables passive interior elements to become active when needed, eliminating ‘dead space’. This technology will not change a single aspect of the original design, but will add a touch and innovation platform. All of these examples are made with existing tools and cars.
Selected wearables use cases:
- Suunto Movesense smart connector
This smart connector improves activity monitoring data quality and delivers location data to the detachable sensors. This means that wearables could be integrated within sports clothing and equipment as they are thin, flexible and environmentally sealed. They can even handle a defined amount of washing machine cycles.
‘Complex flexible hybrid electronics today’
Douglas Hackler President and CEO of American Semiconductor presented a keynote that highlighted some of American Semiconductor’s solutions for the production of flexible hybrid electronics.
“Hybrid systems provide a flexible product solution that combines the best of silicon based components and printed electronics,” said Hackler.
Flexible hybrid systems are a combination of printed materials and high performance components used to create a new class of flexible electronics.
Hackler spoke about some of American Semiconductor’s flexible hybrid systems solutions and innovations.
Mounting ICs on printed substrates:
- Flex SoP conversion results in chip scale packages ICs on dicing tape
- This innovation results in the feasible elimination of some standard packaging steps
- Flex ICs can be placed directly from dicing tape to product substrates
Energy harvesting tags: FleX-NFC for smart labels
- FleX conversion of NEXP NFC SOC
- ARM Corect-M0+ processor
- 256kb non volatile flash memory (read/write, no battery)
- NFC /RFID ISO 14443 type A interface
- Passes <5mm RoC in inlay materials
- FleX-NFC mounted on programmable printed test antenna inlay
NFC wristband demonstrator:
- FHE NFC conference demonstrator
- Printed antenna on paper
- FleX-NFC (ARM M0+, FLASH and temperature sensor)
- Applications: conference identification, hospital wristbands, concert IDs, etc.
‘Integrated inductive charger for automotive central console’
Dr. João Gomes is the COO of the Center for Nanotechnology and Smart Materials (CeNTI). CeNTI is a collaboration between three main universities in Portugal and three technological centers, which focus on automotive and aeronautics, architecture and construction, healthy protection and wellbeing.
Automotive interior trends
The automotive interior as something that is becoming part of home, there is a trend towards less oppressive interiors, and there are specific challenges now with autonomous driving to rethink the space of automotive interiors.
Gomes spoke about their S-Console Project: ‘S-Console project aims the development of a new floor central console for the automotive interiors, integration of innovative functionalities, smart materials and communications electronic systems with distinct sensing and illumination.’
- Clean design
- On demand functions
- Seamless feel
- Personalize and adapt
- Functional comfort
- Sustainable structures (all these materials needs lifecycle analysis, if not fully recyclable then a low carbon footprint)
- Interactive surface technologies
To realize this vision, CenTI have developed 65 different design concepts: varying shape design and functions to include the following requirements:
- Development of simple seamless designs
- Integrating interactive functionalities into/onto interior materials surfaces
- Removing ‘active areas’ cluttered with switches physical actuators
- Focus on central console, arm rest, door panel textile structures (or textile substrates for artificial leather)
There are many applications of printed electronics which could be used to realize this project: direct printed sensors and actuators, printed and integrated lighting devices, stretchable circuits, printed flexible sensors actuators, printed flexible matrix, printed hybrid electronics, injected molded IML electronics.
IML integrated inductive charging
One of the functions that CeNTI have been working on, is IML integrated inductive charging into the central console design.
“The problem is, that if you look into the central console design, they tend to be very thin to reduce the amount of materials, and the weight of central console and ventilation system,” Gomes said.