Goodbye Wearable, Hello Inkjet-Printed Tattoo!

A team of Japan’s Waseda University reported an important milestone by printing electronic wiring onto ultra-thin sheets of a flexible elastomeric film with a household inkjet printer.

inkjet printed electronic tattoos

Those staying on track with the latest gadgets might want to say “bye” to their wearables: Electronic tattoos are the next big thing! What sounds like a painful and expensive process is neither of both, but takes you back to your school days when temporary tattoos were a hit – with the big difference that electronic tattoos can be easily printed with everyday inkjet printers, making them affordable and accessible.

Inkjet Prooving its Future-Technology-Status

Whether or not you belonged to the lovers of temporary tattoos, you might not get around this invention. Epidermal electronics in the form of electronic tattoos is already in use and might become a staple of modern medical care – especially as researchers are relentlessly working on its accessibility and affordability.

It is been only at the beginning of 2017 that a team of Japan’s Waseda University reported an important milestone. They printed electronic wiring onto ultra-thin sheets of a flexible elastomeric film of only 750 nanometers thickness (120 times thinner than a human hair) – with a household inkjet printer. Since the adaption of external circumstances such as temperature and sterilization are no longer necessary to achieve the wished results – thanks to inkjet printing –, the devices are easy and cheap to produce.

Self-Adhesion Instead of Soldering

The printing of the conductive silver lines works in the same way as the production of energy storing devices, but yet, it is a completely different story as paper has been replaced by the specialty, self-adhesive film. Further elements needed to ensure the functionality of the “next-generation-wearable” such as chips and LEDs are connected by the two layers of elastomeric nanosheets alone. Sandwiched between the self-adhesive layers, the research team managed to completely exclude soldering from the process and killed two birds with one stone: Their tattoo would also adhere to skin. Better elasticity, thus excellent protection of the circuits which would not break while in use, are further achievements.

Yet, the electronic tattoos still have to pass the “real-life” test. For now, they have only been patched onto artificial skin – where they functioned for a few days though.

The results sound promising and gives us a taste of what is to come. Where would you like to see electronic tattoos in use? We are looking forward to read your opinion in the comment section.