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