As part of the SmartEEs2 research project, funded by Horizon 2020, InnovationLab and its partner ISRA have developed a new process for manufacturing solderable circuits based on copper. The circuits are screen-printed and are compatible with conventional reflow processes, reads a press release.
Printed electronics production is an additive process that does not use toxic etchants and operates at relatively low temperatures of around 150°C, which reduces energy consumption. But that’s not all, as InnovationLab states in the press release, the substrates used in PCB additive manufacturing are up to 15 times thinner than conventional techniques, which reduces material consumption and means that the production process generates less waste.
InnovationLab has so far produced a physical prototype, which includes all the important blocks of a smart label. It uses copper ink to ensure high conductivity. Component assembly can be done using a conventional reflow soldering process, allowing manufacturers to upgrade to new technology without investing in new equipment.
Multi-layer, metal and dielectric printing was used to produce the target functionality: a low-power temperature sensor and logger, an NFC communication interface via a printed antenna, and a compact battery that is charged from a printed solar cell, making the device completely self-sufficient.
“This is a state-of-the-art production process, which will reduce costs and logistical dependencies on suppliers, while providing three key benefits for the environment: consuming less material, use less energy and produce less waste. by this year, we expect to have scaled this process to high volumes, meeting customer demands for a million or more solderable leads,” says Dr. Janusz Schinke, Printed Electronics Manager at InnovationLab, in the Press release.