According to the American Institute of Physics, the way has been paved for mass production of printable electronics. This technology may well be in its infancy, and is perhaps most suitable for relatively simple electronic applications, but it would seem to satisfy two potentially key criteria for electronics production in the future. Firstly, the ability to ‘print on demand’ could offer very rapid and cost effective manufacturing. Secondly it could provide an enormous degree of flexibility and hence potential for customisation. Both of these challenges will be very familiar to anyone already involved in electronics manufacturing. It will be interesting to see whether this new technology can complement and improve existing production processes too, or whether it finds its own niche as an improvement over current inkjet printing for items such as tags and tickets.
This enables extremely low-cost flexible electronics through printing processes. "Print-on-demand electronics are another large field of possible applications," Ruediger said. "At present, the main source of versatile electronics is field-programmable gate arrays that provide a reconfigurable circuitry that can be adopted for different purposes with predefined limitations." Print-on-demand electronics show huge potential for small and inherently flexible lines of production and end-user products. "Just imagine supermarkets printing their own smart tags or public transport providers customizing multifunctional tickets on demand. 'Wearables' that explicitly require flexible electronics may also benefit," Schindler said. The costs for such a printer, after optimization of the process steps, could drop to within the range of current inkjet printers.