Rotary Presses Experiencing a Major Renaissance

Posted Date 08/02/16

Rotary presses, the kind used to print books, magazines and newspapers, are experiencing a true renaissance: they are now being used to print electronics, including not jut circuits for solar cells and batteries, but also transistors.

One of the companies that have been adapting the rotary press to the digital age and successfully, is British Emerson & Renwick. Currently, the company makes circuits for use in solar cells, display screens, and batteries. It also makes coatings on plastic, metal, and even glass. These coatings range from conductors, through semiconductors to isolators. Some coatings are light-emitting.

The machine that makes them is called the Genesis and the firm’s chief says that despite the advanced stuff it can do, it’s actually based on technologies used in the traditional offset press.

Going back to printed electronics, one issue has been the ink. Electronics cannot be printed with the same ink that newspapers use, of course, they need a conductor. Silver is the best of them but it’s pricey as well. One team of researchers from Cambridge University led by Dr. Tawfique Hasan is experimenting with adding graphene to the ink. Graphene is sufficiently conductive for a range of applications, from biosensors used in testing patient samples to electrodes for printed batteries.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, the Industrial Research Institute is working on a press that will print organic light-emitting diode structures ranging from displays and decorative lighting to signage and decorative car lights.

Rotary presses can also be used to make superthin photovoltaic films that can then be simply attached to roofs and walls, and used as a source of renewable energy.

Again in Britain, the Centre for Process Innovation ahs developed an inkjet-technology based printer that can yield copper circuits on plastic sheet at the very reasonable speed of 17 meters per minute.

These advancements are all very good but the precision means that there is very little margin for errors. Strict control procedures need to be in place to avoid costly and time-consuming stoppages.

It looks like printed electronics have a bright future ahead of them, and not just in marriage with 3D printers, either.

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