FlexTech, a SEMI Strategic Association Partner announced a new development project with PARC, a Xerox company, to develop a hybrid, highly bendable, paper-like smart tag, incorporating a thin audio speaker. The product is aimed at applications in packaging, wearables prosthetics, soft robotics, smart tags, and smart cities and homes.

PARC will use ink jet printing to build prototypes of the paper-like smart tags capable of producing audio signals, on a silver-printed polyethylene naphthalene (PEN) or polyimide (PI) substrate. They will develop and demonstrate a process for bonding chips, and printing active and passive components, as well as interconnects on the flexible substrate, essential in meeting the project goals for ruggedness and form factor. PARC will also focus on printing actuators to create thin film audio speakers. The technology will enable custom systems to be built on demand.

“Over the last 15 years PARC has been a pioneer in the exciting field of printed electronics.  We are pleased to continue our collaboration with SEMI-FlexTech in a project which takes advantage of the wide range of expertise on the PARC staff,” said Bob Street, project technical lead at PARC. “This new project is technically challenging because it combines a number of novel technologies needed to achieve stringent requirements, including the capability for a thin, paper-like film to produce clear speech audio.  We are looking forward to the challenge and implications for commercial products.”

In 2014, FlexTech awarded PARC with a project grant to develop printed sensors. Partly because of this work, it is now possible to print transistor circuits in a fully additive fashion and to combine these with sensors, actuators and other electronic components.

“We have had a long, fruitful relationship with PARC and look forward to excellent results from this project which clearly advances innovation in flexible, printable electronics, enabling solutions that lead to safer, healthier lives,” said Melissa Grupen-Shemansky, CTO at SEMI-FlexTech. “In addition to pushing the boundaries in electronics, PARC pays attention to manufacturability and affordability, ensuring developments are scalable from R&D to production.”

PARC and SEMI-FlexTech staff envisage additive manufacturing delivering intelligence into electronics fabricated on demand, including smart packaging and wearable devices in conformal shapes. At the heart of this development are material science, novel printing technologies as well as process driven design that will deliver libraries of smart components and systems. The constituent “inks” of this technology are nanomaterials, molecular semiconductors, inorganic composites and silicon chiplets that together form circuits, sensors, light emitters, batteries, and more, integrated directly into products of all shapes, sizes and textures.

FlexTech’s R&D program is supported by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), based in Adelphi, MD.