Hybrid Printed Electronics

The hybrid printed electronics technology opens new possibilities for electronics applications. Combining printed circuits and devices with traditional electronic components like LEDs and chips, it enables large-area, flexible and freeform applications that can be manufactured in high volumes using roll-to-roll printing and assembly processes.  

As a pioneer of flexible and printed electronics, Holst Centre is at the forefront of hybrid printed electronics developments and it offers an extensive portfolio of technologies. We are active across the value chain, working closely with material companies, equipment companies and end users to develop the technology and bring it to market.

 

In-mould electronicsOur in-mould electronics technology platform transforms everyday plastic objects by embedding intelligence, to deliver enhanced, intuitive user experiences. Functionality-wise it allows for proximity detection, direct touch and force sensing, high-quality illumination, displays and haptic feedback. Our approach is based on a single foil or skin that contains both graphics and electronics. This active skin can be integrated into the plastic object through injection moulding or thermoforming. Applicable to everything from razors to car interiors, the approach brings multifunctionality to any plastic surface, at the same time increasing design freedom, cutting costs and reducing weight.

 

HPE-in-mould electronics

 

3D printed electronics

3D printed electronics is an emerging technology at the intersection of 3D printing and printed electronics. It combines structural and electronic manufacturing into a single step. The electronic circuits are created using printed electronics technologies as part of the 3D printing production process, embedding them directly into structural components.

 

In designing products, there is no longer a need for separate circuit boards or electronics layers, giving complete design freedom and inherent protection from dust and dirt. The approach is particularly cost effective for small volume production ('long tail') and helps to reduce lead times. It also minimizes waste and streamlines system integration. Promising application areas include:
  • Customized, lightweight smart wearables for the medical industry, the defence sector and consumers
  • Small-series semiconductor packaging
  • Free-form antennas for automotive, communications and defence
3D printed electronics is currently in the early stages of development, and Holst Centre has created several proof-of-concept demonstrators in collaboration with its partners. We continue to explore the potential of this promising technology and are keen to hear from potential end-users to help shape the technology roadmap.

 

Stretchable electronicsThere is a strong rise in all kinds of wearable devices that monitor human vital signs, with the purpose of diagnosing illnesses at an early stage. In order for these devices to be comfortably worn on and around the body, the electronic circuits should be able to adapt to the movement of the human body. Stretchable electronics is a key enabler in this.

 

Holst Centre has been working on stretchable electronics for over a decade. It has developed a strong technology and knowledge portfolio in stretchable electronic devices. Through optimization of materials and circuit designs, Holst Centre has realized devices capable of operating reliably with stretching of double-digit percentages.

 

New printed electronics technologies

Holst Centre is continually pushing the boundaries of printed electronics technologies. On the one hand to expand its possibilities, but on the other hand to deploy it in new markets. For example, we are pioneering a new printing technology capable of printing high-resolution (< 10 microns) thick tracks (aspect ratios above 1) at high throughputs. This method could replace current wiring technologies in semiconductor chip packaging and display use cases. First results are expected by the end of 2020. View the progress on our LinkedIn page.

 

Together with our partner Novacentrix, we are also developing a new soldering technology that allows intense flashes of light to initiate the soldering process. This so-called 'photonic soldering' technology, invented by Holst Centre, allows soldering on low thermally stable substrates but it also allows much higher throughput than conventional reflow soldering processes.

 

Explanation roll-to-roll spatial ALD concept

 

And finally, we are also developing a laser-based mass transfer technology to enable fast and accurate placement of silicon components on flexible, plastic substrates. It promises transfer rates above 10 million micron-sized components per second and allows any reworking to be carried out in the transfer step, saving time and money in production and supporting higher component densities. The initial target application for the technology is flexible microLED displays, and we are looking to work with LED, equipment and display manufacturers to take the next step towards affordable microLED displays.

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