Today printers are equipped with advanced technologies to produce high-quality print products which are solely made to be recognized by the human visual sense.
The traditional printing processes gravure, offset, flexo and screen printing as well as the digital printing techniques electrophotography and inkjet are well developed technologies to transfer colored ink dots onto a fiber based substrate or plastic foil. The print quality is satisfactory when the human eye sizes the well defined ensemble of screen dots as a halftone image or even a full tone area.
Future printed products will be equipped with functionalities beyond color. For example, they will be able to perceive their surroundings, save these data and communicate via computer networks with persons or with other members of the “Internet of things”. We expect a growing number of printed functionalities which in many applications will be supplemented by Silicon based micro and nano systems which are likewise developed in the ENAS labs. These new printed functionalities require a revision of the printing technologies which are today optimized to print the functionality color.
The key for suitable industrial production facilities for these “printed smart objects” is the interdisciplinary development of complex inks, manufacturing processes and machine systems with integrated digital manufacturing technologies.
One of the actual topics is research and development on printed antenna systems for applications in challenging dielectric environments. These solutions can be employed in various wireless communication systems. For the manufacture of the antennas sheet fed or roll-to-roll printing systems are used.
Another research topic is the development of printed batteries and their integration in various applications, e.g. smart labels. Accordingly manufacturing technologies are under investigation that can be utilized to build up the whole circuitries on one flexible polymer substrate.
In the ENAS department of „Printed Functionalities“ traditional and digital printing processes are employed to manufacture these new printed products, taking advantage of the additive character of the printing technologies and their high productivity. These printing technologies with the focuses drop-on-demand inkjet and gravure are under further development in cooperation with the Chemnitz University of Technology and industrial partners, to meet all the new technical requirements. To process new materials by means of printing processes, the existing parameters of printing technologies are adapted and modified.