Inkjet Printers to Mass Produce Smart Fabrics

The first stretchable integrated circuit, entirely produced by an ordinary inkjet printer, has been created in the US.

Researchers in Michigan State University have been exploring the potential applications of a stretchable smart fabric developed in their lab. reports that the cost-saving stretchable electronic fabric can be folded and put in one’s pocket without breaking, quoting Chuan Wang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The nanomaterials and organic compounds, which make the materials that form the fabrics, can be dissolved in solution to produce different electronic inks. The inks will run through a standard inkjet printer and make the devices. With the ink, researchers have successfully created the elastic material, the circuit and the organic light-emitting diode (OLED).

Generally, there are millions of pixels underneath the screen of a smart tablet or a large display. To create a single pixel, researchers have to combine the circuit and OLED. The smart fabric can be potentially commercialized once the researchers produce a working pixel, and Wang believes it can be done in a year or two.

“We can conceivably make the costs of producing flexible electronics comparable to the costs of printing newspapers,” said Wang. “Our work could soon lead to printed displays that can easily be stretched to larger sizes, as well as wearable electronics and soft robotics applications.”

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