Printed Electronics Europe, hosted by IDTechEx, is now less than two weeks away. European organisations have been particularly innovative in identifying new applications for printed sensors. And in the race for the commercialisation of new emerging sensor technologies, it seems that many leaders are based in Europe.
For instance, Thinfilm has integrated the technology from PST Sensors to demonstrate the first printed temperature sensing system. The company, which is headquartered in Norway, envisions mass-produced smart labels for a fraction of the cost of conventional time-temperature loggers. Peratech in the UK has commercialised a new piezoresistive ink that can be used to make touch sensors or electronic skin for robots. In Finland, Clothing+ has become a leader in e-textile, designing and manufacturing wearable sensors that use electrodes directly printed on fabric.
Another key factor is the number of printed electronics centres of excellence that have been set up in several countries. Mostly government funded, they offer facilities for prototyping and process development. The European Union also encourages collaboration between academia and industry by funding consortium projects.
For example, one project known as SIMS (Smart Integrated Miniaturised Sensor System) has focused on developing a point-of-care biosensing platform using printed electronics. The project, led by the University of the West of England, has recently achieved a milestone by integrating a printed cholesterol sensor with a printed battery and a printed display.
Another project, FLASHED (Flexible Large Area Sensors for Highly Enhanced Displays), has recently been granted €2.8m of funding. The project aims to create new ways to interact with a flexible display by using PyzoFlex, a piezoelectric sensor array which was developed by Joanneum Research and the Media Interaction Lab in Austria.
There has been a considerable amount of interest in printed sensors recently and the industry is changing rapidly. End-users of the technology and integrators are looking for sensors that will enable the Internet-of-Things. There is also a huge trend in favour of wearable technologies and e-textiles.