Inkjet Printing Opens up New Possibilities for Circuit Production

Researchers from MSU have succeeded in printing the world’s first stretchable integrated circuit with an inkjet printer.

Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) have taken the production of circuits to the next level, printing the world’s first stretchable integrated circuit. With this invention, stretchable mini tablets could be getting into everyone’s grasp.

Inkjet-Printed Tablet of the Future is Stretchable

Do you have a think, how many bags do you carry around on an average working day? For many people it counts up to four quickly: A handbag, lunch bags for themselves and their kids and last but not least their laptop bag. Chuan Wang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at MSU, and his team might take at least the weight of the last one off people’s shoulders sometime soon – literally speaking – as they invented the first stretchable integrated circuit printed with an inkjet printer.

Research Revolving Enormous Potential

MSU’s detection is one in a row of findings researchers have recently come up with around circuit inkjet printing. All components – the elastic ground material, the circuit itself, and the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) – are printed from electronic inks, they themselves consisting of dissolved nanomaterials and organic compounds. The case of Waseda University constitutes another example. They managed to inkjet-print electronic wiring onto a self-adhesive film instead of paper, hitting a milestone in the field of electronic tattoos people would just put on their skin.

Mass Production Yet to Come

One could certainly read both stories as a sign for a soon-to-come mass production of inkjet-printed electronics. After all, the materials can be produced on a standard printer which is not expensive to manufacture. As Wang puts it:

“We can conceivably make the costs of producing flexible electronics comparable to the costs of printing newspapers.”

But he and his team want to take the next step first: printing the circuit and the OLED at once, i.e. combining them into a working pixel. After overcoming this hurdle, their smart fabric could find its way into commercialization.

“We have created a new technology that is not yet available,”

says Wang.

“And we have taken it one big step beyond the flexible screens that are about to become commercially available.”

Until then, we are left dreaming of stretchable mini smart tablets, or wallpapers transforming an entire wall into a huge screen.

Looking at the high speed in which inventions pop up, could you imagine having printing electronics in your own home? We are looking forward to your comment next to this blog post.