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I was invited to keynote the two-day conference of Printable & Flexible Electronics held at the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) in Taiwan.

ITRI is a technology R&D institute offering a wide range of technical and business consultations. My presentation included current business trends and future forecast for the global printable and flexible electronics industry.

Those in attendance included executives from material companies, ink suppliers, PCB manufacturers, flex circuit manufacturers, packaging companies and device and equipment manufacturers. My discussion was very engaging; several people remained after my presentation, and were excited to talk about their new technologies. In fact, many of us agreed to continue talking shop at dinner later that night.

There were many interesting presentations at the conference. Some featured products already commercialized or very close to becoming commercialized. The next few paragraphs detail a few of these.

The first product is a silicone-based elastic flexible circuit. A silicone-based silver ink was screen-printed on transparent silicone rubber sheets, and a silicone cover-lay was printed on the conductors. Because all the materials were made with similar silicone base resins, the elastic circuit provided a good mechanical balance, especially with bonding strength. Silicone rubber has had great success in medical devices and healthcare equipment. At first, silicone-based materials had an issue with bond strength, but the circuit manufacturers found a way to fix this problem.

The second product is a transparent flex circuit. Nowadays, there are several heat-resistant and transparent films (other than polyimide films) available on the market. A few manufacturers currently commercialized thin copper laminates, and are ready to process in standard etching lines. One issue remains with transparent conductors other than indium tin oxide (ITO). PCB manufacturers are considering organic conductive molecules, silver nanowire inks, fine meshes from thin copper or silver ink and more. This is not a fix just yet, but Taiwanese circuit manufacturer are producing actual transparent circuits by employing temporary solutions.

The most popular topic during the conference circled around mechanical sensors made by a screen-printing process. Several companies developed capacitance devices or piezo device as the screen-printable pressure sensors. An equipment manufacturer demonstrated a large size pressure sensor array built on fabric substrates. The size of the sensor sheet can be 2 meters by 1 meter or larger, and it can measure the pressure distribution of beds or sofas. This can be valuable for the design of furniture and healthcare devices.

Creating new technologies and bringing them to market is not a new process for industrialized countries. The aggressiveness of executives from large companies plays a key role in creating next generation products. The staff from some of the Taiwanese companies I spoke with during the conference extremely driven to create new business and technologies. Along with this drive and collaboration within a growing network translates to an extremely competitive electronics industry in Taiwan.

Dominique K. Numakura, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

DKN Research, www.dknresearch.com

DKN Research Newsletter #1910, April 14th, 2019 (English Edition) (Micro Electronics & Packaging)

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Headlines of the Week

1. Tokyo and Osaka University (Japan) successfully codeveloped a process to build spintronics elements (CoFeB/MgO) on flexible substrates. It will increase the flexibility of flexible devices.

2. Taiwan Pucka (flex circuit manufacturer in Taiwan) developed a plating process to make conductivity of silver ink thick-film circuits two orders higher.

3. NEC (major electronics company in Japan) developed a new high-speed inspection camera for manufacturing lines. The camera can take 1000 frames per second, eliminating NG products from the lines.

4. JDA (major display panel manufacturer in Japan) will establish a joint venture to provide total solutions for the whole process of manufacturing plants, warehouse and logistics.

5. Fujitsu (major electronics company in Japan) developed the world's fastest deep-learning technology for AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure installed at AIST in Japan.

6. Murata (major device manufacturer in Japan) developed the world's smallest LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) package as the infrastructure of IoT systems.

7. Family Mart (major convenient store chain in Japan) will cooperate with Panasonic to develop next-generation convenient stores with IoT technologies. The first pilot store has been opened in Kanagawa, Japan.

8. Denso (major car electronics company in Japan) will invest 180 billion yen in electronics R&D projects over the next three years to strengthen the development and manufacturing of prototyping and manufacturing.

9. Panasonic (major electronics company in Japan) started the field test of HD-PLC (Power Line Communication) combining home appliances such as refrigerators, microwaves and air conditioners.

10. NTT DOCOMO (major telecommunication company in Japan) started an analysis service of IoT manufacturing lines to improve productivity.

11. Toppan Printing (Major printing company in Japan) will start the Toppan Secure Activate Service to establish security of IoT equipment.

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