PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Scientists at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) are working on a new technology that makes it possible to quickly and efficiently print functional electronics, such as sensors, light-emitters, transistors, and even semiconductors. Though the technology is in its earliest days, and it's not clear how it will be employed, the promise is there for a wide range of possible uses, in industry and beyond.
Printed electronics is not the same as 3D printing, but it does use the same additive manufacturing method. Traditional electronics manufacturing is "subtractive," meaning the end product is etched away from a material, while this method is essentially the same as printing text or imagery on paper.
One use is to build temperature sensors directly into the packaging for, say, fish. If the temperature of the fish goes above 35 degrees Fahrenheit, the sensor will issue an alert. The packaging is produced by Thinfilm Electronics.
PARC's Janos Veres said that the state of printed electronics today is akin to that of transistors in the 1960s. But all that's required now is for partners to look for applications that are "good enough."
One of the most important things that can happen in printed electronics right now is for PARC and its partners to create a series of libraries of applications. Among them are active matrix displays, image sensor arrays, and memory arrays.