Strategic network meeting: High-tech printing technology

Strategic network meeting
High-tech printing technology

The brand-new campus “Campus Spoor Noord” of the Artesis-Plantin Institute served as the host for this IARIGAI-VIGC event in the field of functional printing. Purpose of the event was to introduce the concept of printing with conductive inks to a broad audience, existing of industrial participants and students. The program highlighted the concept of printed electronics from the different point of view:

” A general overview to understand the basic concepts and terminology
” Materials: inks and substrates that are used for printing electronics
” Engineering: which printing technology and how to use.
” Production: products that are made today
” Recycling: consequences for graphic products containing printed electronics materials.

The event was opened by Fons Put, senior consultant at the Flemish Innovation centre for Graphic Communication ( and Branka Lozo, Secretary General of the International Association of Research Organizations for the Information, Media and Graphic Arts Industries (www. As a first speaker Fons closed with his presentation the gap between graphic and functional printing. Printers are masters in “material deposition”, and this experience could be very useful in producing graphic products with added functionality. Connecting print to a network opens the door for new learning curves to stabilize and even improve production volumes.

Peter Willaert, Marketing Manager Printed Electronics at Agfa Materials, titled his presentation “From our lab to your fab”. Agfa is an industrial leader in the development of conductive inks. This results in 2 types of conductive inks:
” Nanosilver, highly conductive and efficient (only thin layers needed)
” Polymer (PEDOT: PSS), conductive and transparent!
Peter shared with us background information on how the conductive characteristics of PEDOT: PSS were discovered: truly a nice story! Further his challenge for printers was clear: “How to turn an object with only visual, human-decodable information into a “device”? Printing can change from “passive” papers products into “active” devices, some nice examples were highlighted (even on paper!).

Wim Deferme is Professor at the university of Hasselt, department Functional Materials Engineering. Together with his team he researches printing of functional materials by screen-printing, Inkjet (drop on demand) and Ultrasonic Spray Coating. Special attention was given on printing of electroluminescent materials on textiles. Interesting for print professionals was the spray coating technology. This is not very well known in graphic environments but seems promising in producing displays (OLED’s) and solar cells. We wish prof. Wim Deferme success with his future plans to research printing electronics on paper substrates.

After lunch it was production time. Which products can be successfully made today with the present materials and equipment? First in the row is the Flemish high-tech company Quad Industries, located in Sint-Niklaas and packed with already 30 year’s experience in printed electronics. Wim Christiaens, R&D Director, explained his vision for the future and the share of printed processes in it. Wim is a heavy believer of the emerging “internet of things”. Devices and objects (healthcare, everyday things, energy, security,…) will communicate and share information and become smart. To reach this goal Quad is collaborating with technology partners (flexible batteries) and is active in numerous research & development projects: EU-FP7 Terasel, Horizon2020 INREP, EU Catrene NEXGEN, IWT Met@Link,…With a planned market introduction of ARION, a smart shoe sole inlay with printed pressure sensitive sensors, a glimpse for the nearby future was shown.

Hans van de Mortel, owner of the company Metafas, came up as the next speaker representing industrial manufacturing. Metafas collaborates with industrial partners as the Holst Centre, Technical University Eindhoven and TNO. With high-end screen printing equipment focus is on LED-applications, hybrid electronics, RFID-antennas and printed loudspeakers! As a nice example attendees received a copy of the product “Matchmaker”: a combination of functional (printed switch and LED’s) and graphic printing.

Joost Valeton, Sr. Process Development Engineer of Meyer Burger (Netherlands) B.V., closed the industrial speaker’s session. Meyer Burger does not produce end-products but plays a significant role (1500 employees on 3 continents) as a solution provider for the high-tech industry (photovoltaics, semiconductor, optoelectronics, printed electronics). Joost focused on the inkjet printing for printed electronics. Meyer Burger provides inkjet printing production platforms. Print heads for graphic and functional printing are the same, but the demands for accuracy are very high. The registration threshold for printing 4 layers on top is = 100 micron.

As closing speaker, we were proud that Prof. Diana Gregor-Svetec managed to come over from the University of Ljubljana. Here she has researched the recyclability of RFID printed antennas on a gloss label paper. Diana illustrated the effects of deinking these types of new printed functional labels. Nice comparison graphs were shown of deinkability results of labels printed in offset and with toner and the influence of including a screen-printed antenna.