Displays created with screen printing technology

Flexible, ultra-thin displays that can be easily created through screen printing technology have been unveiled by a Swedish research institute. The monochrome displays are said to be similar to traditional LCD screens and, with a very low voltage power supply, can be used in conjunction with Near Field Communication (NFC) tags and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in applications like smart labels.

The institute that created the technology, Acreo Swedish ICT AB, claim this is one of the first printed electronic components available for mass production. The displays are electrochromic and are created through a high-resolution screen printing process using conductive ink – similar to work done by British company Novalia to create interactive posters. To operate, the displays need small cells or printed batteries.

Low-power sensors of various types have been touted for applications similar to where Acreo’s displays could find a home. Now, instead of users having to use technology like NFC to monitor sensor readings on a device, they will be able to check readings like temperature, humidity and UV, for instance, just with a glance.

Acreo have already developed a UV-detecting smart label prototype which features ink that is sensitive to UV light. The ink generates a current proportionate to the level of UV wavelength light that it receives and this is displayed on the screen, along with a reading of the total UV exposure since the label was fitted. These have been used in the water purification process, to ensure an appropriate dose of UV has been received, and as a skin-worn version for sunbathers to ensure they are staying within safe limits of UV explosure.

One of the first licensees that will be creating the displays is Thinfilm Electronics, a major player in the field of smart labels.