Please tell us a bit about your company and why you are attending Sensors Expo & Conference 2018?
We're promoting our manufacturing capabilities. Printable electronics is relatively new, and what we’re seeing are new ideas and new products and concepts, and what we're promoting is that we are able to manufacture to scale for customers right now. We’ve been doing this for 20 years, and now we've brought the level of complexity up even further.
It used to be on one layer. Now we're able to provide the equivalent of a four-layer PCB on flexible substrates. We're able to print top side and bottom side and attach more complex components. Our circuitry has gotten finer-pitched where we can now attach components such as QFNs and ICs. We're also working on bare die attach.
Our technology focus can be broken down into three categories: flexible circuit solutions, low-power wireless and sensor solutions.
Flexible circuit solutions includes printed electronics, the silver circuit on a PET substrate or other flexible substrates, and copper flex circuits. We're also focusing on low-power wireless solutions, whether it's RFID, NFC technology, or low-energy Bluetooth. Although we're not limited to these areas, that's where our focus is for customers. Once you get to the higher power then we're really integrating much heavier-duty, higher-capacity batteries and that's getting away from something that's thin and flexible. It's not that we won't do it, it's just that it's not our core technology.
It then comes down to integrating flexible printed circuits with wireless solutions and sensors to produce a complete sensor solution. We are offering our customers the ability to put sensor technology onto flexible and possibly wearable and remote solutions in thin substrates.
Then it comes down to what else can we do? Customers are coming to us now and asking, "Can you print on paper? Can you print on fabrics? Can you print on non-woven materials?" And we're exploring those with our customers.
Stretchable substrates. Everyone is interested in stretchable substrates like TPUs, so we're investigating that. We’re helping our customers bring these capabilities to production.
That's the fundamentals of it, but we then integrate it into a working product. We're printing the circuitry, printing an antenna, attaching the components, and including the batteries or other power source if needed.
It’s getting much more complex, and we're able to offer the total solution. We're not producing a product, we're offering the customer a manufacturing capability.
Where are the current application areas and where do you see those applications going?
We are seeing a lot of interest in the sensors industry as well as medical and packaging. Packaging is very new and it's still really in its infancy of how to integrate printed electronics into packaging. There's a lot of challenges to it, but we get a lot of inquiries for this.
Then it's industrial sensors and remote sensors. We’ve developed a building monitoring demonstration platform in partnership with Oakridge National Labs, a US Department of Energy science and energy laboratory. Oakridge developed this platform to monitor temperature, light and humidity in a room. It's currently based on the LoRaWAN protocol, so we've got an antenna integrated with the circuitry, a solar panel and rechargeable battery attached to a wall to monitor the environments in a room. This allows users to monitor a building’s infrastructure wirelessly, it’s called structural health monitoring.
Another variation we’ve been working on involves a flexible substrate demonstration to monitor temperature and humidity while integrating Bluetooth low-energy for data transmission to a tablet via the BLE printed antenna. We’ve also been working on disposable sensors for the medical field. We’ve developed an NFC temperature sensor that can attach to your body and monitor temperature with an app from your phone or other NFC device.
Many of our customers are interested in tracking products through their life cycle. As a matter of fact, tracking food products in our food chain is a very important customer focus now. People want to know what the temperature is of the products all the way through the food chain from picking through to the end user. The food industry is a cost-challenged market. We lose about 40% of our food to spoilage every year, and every dollar adds up in our grocery costs. If they can reduce that even a little bit by monitoring the environment, it could provide significant savings in our food supply chain.
Again, we don't get into the end solutions, but we're trying to help provide that solution so that our customers can go out and address the markets.
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