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ESMA will demonstrate the potential of functional printing at drupa 2016

ESMA,‭ ‬European Specialist Printing Manufacturers Association,‭ ‬will be present in two pavilions at drupa‭ ‬2016.‭

The pavilion in Hall‭ ‬3A‭ ‬70‭ ‬will be dedicated to functional and industrial printing with member companies such as SPS demonstrating screen printing equipment used for food decoration‭ (‬e.g.‭ ‬chocolate‭) ‬and other special effects achievable at high operation speed.‭ ‬SPS’s partner ATMA will showcase latest developments in machines for conductive and technical printing.‭ ‬German specialist in stencils,‭ ‬KIWO,‭ ‬will present printing of pressure sensitive adhesives with high electrical conductivity.‭ ‬A‭ ‬variety of decoration techniques for glass and other rigid materials will be in the spotlight in the ESC booth and another ESMA member,‭ ‬Marabu,‭ ‬will present applications of their inks for touch panels,‭ ‬tablet and smart phone masks.‭

Visitors to ESMA Lounge will learn about the latest projects around smart tags,‭ ‬smart sensors,‭ ‬flexible and washable conductive inks used in textile industry,‭ ‬and the overall employment of various print technologies for Internet of Things.‭ ‬Further innovations will be highlighted in ESMA pavilion in hall‭ ‬6‭ ‬where Color Passport will present their revolutionary approach to colour management and reproduction on different substrates.‭ ‬Other experts in colour management,‭ ‬ColorGate,‭ ‬come to the show with development stations and state-of-the-art RIP technology for industrial printing with inkjet.‭ ‬Last but not least,‭ ‬Intrinsic Materials,‭ ‬a specialist in nano-materials,‭ ‬will show their achievements in conductive inks and printed electronics components applied by the medical industry,‭ ‬such as e.g.‭ ‬disposable testers with smart tags.‭

Functional printing will‭ ‬form the core of ESMA presence at drupa and it is therefore worthwhile to briefly investigate what‭ ‬lies behind this term.‭ ‬In its early days‭ ‬functional printing relied on chromatic inks which changed colour due to external influences such as light‭ (‬UV/black light‭)‬,‭ ‬temperature‭ (‬heat‭)‬,‭ ‬pH changes or water contact.‭ ‬They found their applications in printed gadgets,‭ ‬especially packaging which‭ ‬achieved market advantage from the distinctive special effects.‭ ‬The glowing and phosphorescent decoration started years ago and reappears on the market on‭ ‬a‭ ‬continuous basis.‭ ‬More advanced and more functional opportunities have followed and entered new industries.‭ ‬Evolution in conductive inks and electroluminescence‭ (‬EL‭) ‬not only benefited branding purposes‭ (‬e.g.‭ ‬light-emitting packaging of Bombay Sapphire Gin‭) ‬but delivered solutions also for solar panels‭ (‬fingers and busbars‭)‬.‭

Initial applications have pushed the boundaries of functional printing.‭ ‬Printed circuit boards‭ (‬PCB‭) ‬and flexible antennas combining FM,‭ ‬TV,‭ ‬mobile,‭ ‬GPS in one antenna and used e.g.‭ ‬in automotive,‭ ‬gave rise to car radar systems for adaptive cruise control.‭ ‬Nowadays,‭ ‬near field communication‭ (‬NFC‭) ‬and RFID antennas are standard features in electric devices and the integration of printing in the manufacturing process constantly improves their cost-efficiency.‭ ‬As far as electroluminescence is considered,‭ ‬a technological jump took place towards OLED‭ (‬organic light emitting diodes‭)‬.‭ ‬Flexible OLEDs integrated in fabric pave the way for smart textiles and wearables,‭ ‬as shown in one of the recent ESMA-powered international projects‭ – ‬POLEOT‭ (‬Printing of Light Emitting Devices on Textile‭)‬.‭

The door to the future of printed electronics,‭ ‬conductive inks and coatings is now wide open.‭ ‬Batteries‭ (‬flexible,‭ ‬thin,‭ ‬rechargeable‭)‬,‭ ‬energy harvest systems‭ (‬based on Peltier effect‭)‬,‭ ‬smart tags and sensors are becoming common consumable goods,‭ ‬many of them disposable,‭ ‬too.‭ ‬Smart wearables and smart sensors increasingly find applications in medical and pharmaceutical sectors,‭ ‬for instance quick test strips for diabetics,‭ ‬blood analysers,‭ ‬smart blister packs‭… ‬Healthcare is one of the markets which embrace new solutions and enable successful business cases of printers who decided to‭ “‬go functional‭”‬.‭ ‬Quad Industries has developed temperature logger labels for blood bags used in transport.‭ ‬The smart tag registers and transmits data to a smartphone app to ensure the correct transport conditions.‭

When mentioning the smartphone,‭ ‬many may not realise the number of its components facilitated by printing techniques.‭ ‬Capacitive switches,‭ ‬batteries,‭ ‬touch panels and screens‭ – ‬printing once again replaces expensive and highly energy-consuming processes.‭ ‬Obviously,‭ ‬marketing departments will come on board,‭ ‬as well.‭ ‬One of the recent Audi TT brochures included printed controls which,‭ ‬after aligning with the smartphone on the right spot,‭ ‬turned the page into a controllable experience of the new model’s cockpit display.‭ ‬Functional printing partners with anti-counterfeiting technologies and delivers combinations of inks,‭ ‬coatings and substrates to create invisible markers.‭ ‬Both for monetary needs or luxury goods,‭ ‬security print is the most efficient and cost-attractive protection against imitation.‭ ‬Current possibilities offer even fingerprint recognition surfaces.

Many of the above mentioned applications are included in the in-mould decoration process,‭ ‬be it for automotive or electronic devices‭ – ‬ranging from the integration of antennas in car mirror caps,‭ ‬in the car console,‭ ‬to capacitive buttons on‭ ‬3D thermoformed parts and surfaces.‭ ‬The industry is growing and gives new,‭ ‬creative development dimensions for printers,‭ ‬manufacturers and product designers.‭ ‬They will all meet for‭ ‬18‭ ‬technical talks and business cases presented during the‭ ‬3rd Advanced Functional and Industrial Printing conference‭ (‬AFIP‭) ‬on‭ ‬2-3rd March‭ ‬2016‭ ‬in Radisson Blu Scandinavia hotel in Düsseldorf.‭ ‬The day before the conference,‭ ‬1st March‭ ‬2016,‭ ‬the nearby CST GmbH invites all attendees for a guided factory tour showing the company’s involvement with functional printing technology.‭