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Ink Jet Printing as a Tool for Fabrication of Wearable Devices
Keywords: fabrication of wearable devices, Non-contact printing technology, medical devices
Printed Electronics is quickly moving from the R&D Laboratory to the Manufacturing floor in a wide range of commercial markets. Like many successful new manufacturing technologies, as it moves into commercial markets it becomes stealth in nature and fades quickly into reality. For many applications, digital printing technology is developing as a strong R&D tool. This is what has happened in the field of Wearable Electronics. Commercial applications typically utilize more than one printing technology including screen printing, gravure, flexographic, and ink jet printing. An important one of these is data-driven ink jet printing which is the focus of this paper. Color OLED display panels, antennae, RFID devices, solar cells, fuel cells, organic & inorganic transistors, conductors & passive components, sensors, biomedical devices, microelectronic packaging and device assembly are some of the emerging applications that indicate that ink jet technology is a key enabler for printable electronic manufacturing. Many of these applications are further enabled by the recent developments of nano-technology and the creation of nanoparticle inks. Practically all utilize printing on flat surfaces, even if the substrate is flexible in nature. Non-contact ink jet technology offers another alternative. In this presentation we will highlight applications that benefit from non-contact ink jet printing for wearable devices. Some of the applications that will be included are: 1. Wearable sensors and diagnostic devices 2. Implantable sensors and devices 3. Micro-optical elements on curved surfaces 4. Printing on the inside of Cases (smart watches & phones) 5. Medical Treatments (drug delivery, tissue engineering) 6. Protective Shielding and Coatings 7. Device Tuning (simultaneous jetting and testing) At the present time, over 2500 research institutions are conducting research based upon ink jet printing technology. Over 400 of these are working with MicroFab Technologies, Inc. or using our printing hardware. MicroFab has been involved in printed electronics for over 30 years. In 1987, the first high volume medical diagnostic test was printed with our technology and in 1988, under an NSF Grant, we printed resist and etched copper circuits on PWB substrates. Today, we are involved with many of the applications mentioned above. Specifically, in this paper we will: Present a brief status of Printed Devices and introduce the advantages of digital ink jet technology in a non-flat world; Present specific technical applications carried out at MicroFab Technologies; Review other wearable device applications carried out at other Research Institutions.
Donald J. Hayes PhD, President
MicroFab Technologies Inc.
Plano, Texas
USA


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