Lab to fab: Printed electronics facility opens, uses new platform technology

By Control Engineering Staff March 20, 2007
Nanoident’s new OFAB is fitted with a class 100 cleanroom using highly sophisticated air filtration. Here, materials with electrical properties are deposited onto a substrate in extremely thin (20 to 200 nm) layers.

Linz, Austria —”Faster, cheaper, better” may reach a new level in semiconductor manufacturing with the recent opening of a new high-volume printing plant. Opening what it calls “the world’s first manufacturing facility for the delivery of printed semiconductor-based optoelectronics” near its headquarters here, Nanoident Technologies AG will use the operation—along with its new Semiconductor 2.0 platform technology—to deliver printed semiconductor-based products for its Nanoident Group of companies. The Nanoident Organic Fab (OFAB) GmbH, which supports high-volume production, reportedly uses an environmentally friendly process to produce printed electronic devices quickly at a fraction of the cost of a traditional, silicon-based semiconductor fab.

“Just as we can’t imagine our lives today without electronic devices that rely on silicon-based semiconductors, in the near future the same will apply to printed electronics-based applications,” said Craig Cruickshank, principal analyst at cintelliq , a U.K.-based firm providing information services and strategic consulting to the organic semiconductor industry. “Nanoident’s OFAB opening is a significant step forward to making the vision of printed electronics a reality with the first of what will be a growing number of printed electronics facilities worldwide.”

The new platform technology and OFAB production facility reportedly allow Nanoident to enable new, innovative offerings in a wide range of markets—including industrial, life sciences, and security—that were previously cost-prohibitive or prevented by the physical constraints of silicon. Printed electronics require no expensive masks, wasted material, or dangerous acids for etching; toxic materials are not used in the OFAB, making it a green production process.

Printed electronics are accomplished one ink at a time (semiconductor, conductor, insulator, resistor, and dielectric), each deposited using an industrial inkjet printer.

“The OFAB opening marks a major industry achievement by bringing a new class of printed electronics from the lab to the fab,” said Klaus G. Schroeter, CEO of Nanoident. “Printed semiconductor-based optoelectronic devices created by the OFAB will usher in an era of new application types-traditionally not well suited for silicon-which will improve healthcare, enhance personal and homeland security, as well as drive new industrial applications. These applications are just the beginning, as we look forward to driving continued advancements for printed devices that will enhance peoples’ lives.”

OFAB has a class 100 cleanroom (&100 half-micrometer particles/cu ft). To produce printed electronics, nanomaterials are deposited onto a substrate using advanced printing methods. The process is extremely fast; it can be completed in hours or days, depending on the application. (Traditional chip manufacturing can take two to three months.) Prototypes and volume production can be run on the same equipment, which allows for highly customized devices. Production capacity can be scaled as needed by adding more equipment.

Nanoident says it is a leader in the development and manufacture of printed semiconductor-based optoelectronic sensors. Its core technology merges the latest breakthroughs in materials science and nanotechnology with modern printing techniques to create a new class of semiconductor devices. The Semiconductor 2.0 Platform is said to be the basis of the world’s first commercial printed photonic sensors, enabling a new generation of applications in the industrial, biometric, and life science markets.

The high-speed, environmentally friendly manufacturing process uses liquid nanomaterials and additive production techniques. These liquids are used to print electronic circuits on a wide variety of surfaces, producing in hours products for prototype as well as high-volume applications. The printed semiconductor devices can be bendable, disposable, light, ultra-thin, and large-area. They have application-specific spectral and electronic properties and can contain light sources and light detectors as well as electronic circuits. These characteristics allow cost-effective, custom-designed devices for applications such as industrial, chemical, biological, biometric and X-ray sensors, printed OLED displays for smart packaging, and electronic signage.

The company also has subsidiaries in Menlo Park, CA, and Grenoble, France.

—Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Edited by Jeanine Katzel , senior editor