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Xerox Claims Printable Electronics Breakthrough

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the shocker-approved dept.

Technology 166

adeelarshad82 writes "Xerox announced a new silver ink that it's calling a breakthrough in printable electronics, a leading-edge concept that's generated a lot of discussion but few actual products to date. Why? Precisely because of the issues that Xerox claims to have addressed. In concept, printable electronics is just what it sounds like: using a printer, basically an inkjet, to print electronic circuits. If this can be done reliably, electronic devices can be printed for far less than current methods cost. One can also print the devices on a variety of new materials. The possibilities range from printing on flexible plastic, to paper and cardboard, to fabric."

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Interesting (5, Interesting)

Paradyme (950782) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907815)

So, how long till people start downloading designs to print them out at home?

Re:Interesting (5, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907987)

Well that would be a great system, especially for DIY and prototype circuits. No more etch and hassling with masks. The FA is pretty light on details (which appears to be official Slashdot policy these days) and so I don't understand where the 'components' come from. Do you just glue your IC down to the paper / plastic / textile base or does this create the components de novo (rather unlikely for complicated things like an IC, but conceivable for resistors, caps, etc.)?

Might change the definition of an 'underwire bra' significantly.

Re:Interesting (4, Interesting)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908639)

The article only mentions a reduction in silver ink printing temperature allowing for printing on plastics and cardboard, as well as functioning well in open air without being a clean room environment. That tells me it's primarily a PWB printer, no mention of semiconductors for ICs. Of course, it's possible, with enough resolution, to print a resistor or capacitor. However, I believe this technology will just produce the conductors, allowing you to solder any components (hopefully it is able to be soldered to) needed.

My question is if they can make multiple layer circuits. This should be pretty easy, just print a layer of insulator on top, with holes for any connections between layers. Also curious what their resolution and tolerances are. Obviously this isn't going to go into high-performance industrial applications any time soon, but if it's possible to make reasonable reliable circuits with tolerances to the mil (0.001"), DIYers will be able to make (and pay for!) circuits they never dreamed of doing before.

Re:Interesting (2, Informative)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908795)

Replying to myself, I know, but this link [xerox.com] states Xerox already has printable semiconductors and dielectrics. This breakthrough was for printable conductors of the same quality, meaning that the entire circuit could be printed: conductors, transistors, diodes, resistors, capacitors, inductors. The only additional components that would be needed would be those that require specialized materials (LEDs, for example).

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29909437)

Now the MPAA is going to be really pissed, not only will we be able to pirate DVDs, we'll also be pirating the circuit boards used in the DVD players to play those DVDs...

Re:Interesting (1)

lightinthedark (1557699) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908001)

Not very once the ink's affordable. And why shouldn't we? It'll make "Learn electronics" books so much easier to publish, and maybe lower the barriers to a whole new generation of hardware hackers. Woo freedom :-)

"once the ink's affordable"...? (2, Insightful)

distantbody (852269) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908469)

Hmmm, if Xerox gets its way with a monopoly razor-blade like business in printable solder, ink won't be cheap.

But there _are_ already printed circuit !! (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908055)

.... or am I missing something??

Re:But there _are_ already printed circuit !! (1)

Necroloth (1512791) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909019)

printed with a printer or etched with acid/UV?

Re:But there _are_ already printed circuit !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29909753)

.... or am I missing something??

You are probably missing the fact that manufacturing process for copper clad PCBs is very wasteful: in step one, huge laminate board is covered with continuous pure copper layer, then sold in large quantities (areas) to PCB producers. The latter then clean the copper surface from any impurities and place the artwork upon it buy any of the number of processes. Then, parts of copper layer that was left unprotected by features of the artwork is chemically etched away, basically, it is wasted, after all the trouble to put it upon laminate base!

Even if etched copper is recycled from the solution later, it would be much much better energy-wise if it could had been placed only where needed at the start. I believe this invention addresses that particular problem.

On the down size, silver ink is probably much more expensive than copper. Also, I don't know how well would this "prints" endure soldering heat? Perhaps adding components is done by using lumps of fresh ink to glue component pins or SMD feet to pads?

Re:Interesting (1)

Fotograf (1515543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908219)

what it would change from PCB on demand services where i can order anything for few euros?

Re:Interesting (1)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908419)

what it would change from PCB on demand services where i can order anything for few euros?

The ability to easily design and produce your own in secret.

Re:Interesting (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908661)

what it would change from PCB on demand services where i can order anything for few euros?

The ability to easily design and produce your own in secret.

More importantly, PCB on-demand services produce in the standard way, requiring mechanical routing on a large copper-plated board. There's a big setup cost, especially with drilling and tooling. Most PCB builders have a minimum order because of this.

Re:Interesting (2, Insightful)

frozentier (1542099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908383)

THAT is exactly the point, IMO. We're at the threshold of not only being able do download pirated software, but ALSO being able to download the hardware to run it on.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29909173)

I am so eager waiting to download my first video camera... not!

Re:Interesting (2, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908849)

I'm guessing it will be a while; most new tech is pretty expensive. The original IBM PC was four or five thousand dollars, laser printers likewise were very high priced. I doubt these things will be affordable to normal people at first. It sounds more complex than a simple inkjet -- it has to melt silver, and somehow does it so you can print melted silver on plastic without melting the plastic. And previous printers needed a clean room to do it, this new tech doesn't.

But I could be wrong. TFA says the main use will be printing RFID tags, and that it will bring the price of RFID tags down from a dollar each to a penny each.

Finally (3, Funny)

srussia (884021) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907845)

I can replace my racks with a three-ring binder!

Re:Finally (1)

cjfs (1253208) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907951)

I can replace my racks with a three-ring binder!

It would seem viable until you realize that $99 printer has $4999.99 cartridges and the first one only comes 1% full.

Re:Finally (4, Funny)

noundi (1044080) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908099)

I can replace my racks with a three-ring binder!

It would seem viable until you realize that $99 printer has $4999.99 cartridges and the first one only comes 1% full.

I'm not expecting [gizmodo.com] anything else.

Re:Finally (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908389)

Wow. That HP ink costs 70 times more than crude oil. This is why I bought a laserprinter rather than an inkjet. The initial cost is high, but the ink is your typical photocopier toner, and can last 5000 or more pages. After you pass the first 800 pages the laserprinter is actually cheaper overall.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908925)

And it'll still work after not having printed anything for three months...

Re:Finally (3, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909125)

Lots of stuff costs 70x more than crude oil. What was surprising about that link was that HP ink costs twice as much as human blood.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29910185)

If HP ink costs 70x more than crude oil AND twice as much as human blood
AND lots of stuff costs 70x more than crude oil
then lots of stuff costs twice as much as human blood.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908525)

And the best part about it is? Do you know what ink-jet ink is made of?

1. Water
2. Plant Derivatives
3. Fungicide

If you looked at the value of the end product versus the inputs, it would be just as impressive. We're talking about margins which would resemble someone selling a $6,000 hamburger.

Expect the same thing from printable circuits. Xerox found some novel way to bind conductive materials to a porous surface; what it's made of will be nowhere near what they can (and will) charge for it.

Digital Signatures and e-Commerce (3, Interesting)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907853)

I think it would be great if we can attach an electronic version of a printed document so that we can verify its authenticity using digital signatures.

Re:Digital Signatures and e-Commerce (3, Insightful)

whatajoke (1625715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907981)

You can encode the document and its signature into a barcode. And you can do it today, very cheaply.

Re:Digital Signatures and e-Commerce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908047)

Yeah, but my WiFi toaster doesn't read barcodes. And it wont make toast unless it gets Wired.

Re:Digital Signatures and e-Commerce (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908097)

Yeah, but my WiFi toaster doesn't read barcodes. And it wont make toast unless it gets Wired.

You mean, your toaster needs an internet connection where wired.com isn't blocked?

Re:Digital Signatures and e-Commerce (1)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908355)

You forget that the digital version would probably be easier to fake. :)

The death of photography makes it possible (3, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907865)

Until the end of the 20th century, a major market for silver was photography. The digital camera and the inkjet printer have slowly destroyed that market and replaced it with digital imaging. Now there's a new use for the silver which, presumably, had digital imaging not come along would have been much more expensive. (Although color photography ends up more or less silver free and there was considerable recycling, there was still a steady consumption of silver, and as the photography market democratised, the amount of silver in use at a given time was steadily increasing.)

Re:The death of photography makes it possible (2, Insightful)

tacarat (696339) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907991)

So, possibly time to start investing in silver? If they use it as stated, a lot of silver may bet get dumped into landfills as part of trash packaging.

Re:The death of photography makes it possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908015)

there are other bigger reasons for investing in silver but yes, I hope this reason will just add to the upward push of the price of silver

Re:The death of photography makes it possible (2, Interesting)

MrMr (219533) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908207)

Investing in silver? Why does that ring a bell? [wikipedia.org]

Re:The death of photography makes it possible (1)

tacarat (696339) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908801)

Buy low, sell before investigated?

Re:The death of photography makes it possible (1)

cbope (130292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908149)

I think by photography, you mean photographic film and traditional photographic paper printing. Photography itself is far from dead and in fact is probably much stronger than it ever was thanks to digital cameras. I would bet that the number of photos taken by the average person with a digital camera is 20-50x what is was during the film days, thanks to the fact that you do not pay for each frame as in the film days. I know that personally my number of shots per year has gone from a few hundreds to many thousands of frames per year. People today take more pictures than ever before.

Re:The death of photography makes it possible (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908421)

This seems like kind of a non sequitur. All he said was: photography used to be a major market for silver, but digital cameras and inkjet have destroyed that part of the silver market, since digital cameras and inkjets do not require silver.

Re:The death of photography makes it possible (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908471)

>>>I think by photography, you mean photographic film

Well since you were nitpicking the original author's choice of words, then I will be nitpicky too. A digital image is not really a photograph ("light written" i.e. on paper). It still captures light, but it is not done on paper, but instead by a charge-coupled device (CCD). A digital image is a photoelectronic, not a photographic, and thus the OP was correct when he called the photograph a dead or dying art, which frees silver for use in other applications.

Thanks (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908577)

I waited to see if anybody would take my (off-topic) point. I think that "Photography", literally drawing with light, does properly apply to the silver process. The digital process is quite different and has a different mindset. I'm a former RPS member who used to do landscape and portraits in medium format. I had to plan carefully, expose carefully and process carefully so as not to waste film. Nowadays, people just seem to point and click endlessly hoping that one of the results will be good, then fix stuff in Photoshop. I call it digital imaging because it is a different trade with different skills, just as I don't call helming a powerboat "sailing". (And my attempts with digital cameras are still nowhere near as good as my old MF photos - just knowing you can point and click seems to do something to my skill level.)

Re:Thanks (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909315)

Nowadays, people just seem to point and click endlessly hoping that one of the results will be good

That's how alot of photography was done even before digital cameras, I used to do alot of B&W photography with a film SLR and would process my own photos in a darkroom. I took hundreds even thousands of frames, I would go through about 100 shots to find 1 that I would consider presenting to someone else AFTER spending a few hours touching it up in the darkroom. There's nothing wrong with spamming shots with a camera and it's one of the first things I recommend to people who are starting out in photography.

Re:The death of photography makes it possible (3, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908949)

Until the end of the 20th century, a major market for silver was photography. The digital camera and the inkjet printer have slowly destroyed that market and replaced it with digital imaging.

Yeah, thankfully we don't have to use silver ink in our inkjet printers. That would make the ink refills really expensive. Oh, wait...

Oh I can't wait. (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907913)

Electronics are going to be even more of a pain in the ass to service.

I can't see it being terribly reliable either.

Re:Oh I can't wait. (1)

sarahbau (692647) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907949)

Why service it when you can just reprint it for pennies?

Re:Oh I can't wait. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908371)

Why service it when you can just reprint it for pennies?

It won't be that easy.

Re:Oh I can't wait. (3, Informative)

ztransform (929641) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907985)

Electronics are going to be even more of a pain ... to service.

I was under the assumption that with today's 7 layer PCBs and bewildering array of surface mount components (and not just the resisters, the ICs too) that the days of servicing electronics was long gone.

My Canon G7 died slightly over a year after purchase in that it simply wouldn't power up any more. The cost of servicing exceeded the value of the camera.

Re:Oh I can't wait. (2, Insightful)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908031)

The bulk of servicing cost is labour, and when you're doing the labour, fixing stuff can still be cheaper. ;-)

Not just servicing, but hacking and such is going to be a lot more of a pain if the traces vaporize when you look at them sideways.

I'm not sure what this is marketed as, for prototyping? Fast prototypes would be nice. But the vast majority of electronics are mass produced stuff, where the physical cost of the PCB is a small portion of the overall circuitry, with components, labour, and R&D being the real cost. I can't see printing traces of silver being cheaper than the existing methods. Maybe I'm missing something.

Re:Oh I can't wait. (1)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908535)

I'm not sure what this is marketed as, for prototyping? Fast prototypes would be nice. But the vast majority of electronics are mass produced stuff, where the physical cost of the PCB is a small portion of the overall circuitry, with components, labour, and R&D being the real cost. I can't see printing traces of silver being cheaper than the existing methods. Maybe I'm missing something.

The ability of individual operators to perform their own R&D. Such operators could also choose to share their results over the internet licensed for others to modify and distribute under similar terms to the various FOSS licenses. Essentially it is just like every other advance of technology that has put abilities that used to be the sole preserve of companies with big budgets into the hands of the individual.

Personally this is what I see as the potential: that productive capacity will be more in the hands of the individual and small business. Large corporations will always have some functions, but economic power and therefore political power can be distributed more evenly in the population, ie: the middle class. There are always influences centralising power and decentralising power, this can be one of the decentralising influences.

Re:Oh I can't wait. (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908939)

I'm not sure what this is marketed as, for prototyping? Fast prototypes would be nice. But the vast majority of electronics are mass produced stuff, where the physical cost of the PCB is a small portion of the overall circuitry, with components, labour, and R&D being the real cost. I can't see printing traces of silver being cheaper than the existing methods. Maybe I'm missing something.

If it could be so much faster and cheaper to create a prototype, the barrier to entry for companies seeking to build a particular piece of electronic equipment would drop drastically. Right now you have to pay a hardware designer a lot of money, you have to minimise the number of prototypes you order because each one costs an arm and a leg and takes some time to produce. There's a reason why there are relatively few companies that do anything more sophisticated than silkscreen their name onto a reference design for a board these days.

Re:Oh I can't wait. (2, Insightful)

cbope (130292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908117)

Any electronics device *can* be serviced or repaired. The issue is cost and difficulty of the repair itself. In many cases it is simply too difficult to replace a failed component or too costly. In your camera example, it could be a component buried deep inside the camera on a small PCB which is not easily accessible. It may take a technician an hour or more to disassemble the camera into a few hundred pieces to get access to the failed component. That is certainly a more expensive operation than replacement of the device.

As a result, many electronic devices made today are effectively disposable. The cost involved to fix them just isn't justified. As an EE, I do try to repair my own devices if they are out of warranty coverage, but sometimes the effort required is just not worth it. It's far easier and cheaper to replace in many cases.

Re:Oh I can't wait. (2, Informative)

xonen (774419) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908503)

As a result, many electronic devices made today are effectively disposable. The cost involved to fix them just isn't justified. As an EE, I do try to repair my own devices if they are out of warranty coverage, but sometimes the effort required is just not worth it. It's far easier and cheaper to replace in many cases.

This i where our current (capatalist) system failes. (Not blaming capitalism per sé btw, but it has influenced our pricing and thinking). The reason repairs are not worth the trouble are basically because manufacturing does not take in account _all_ costs, both money-wise and 'virtual' - like environmental cost.

Any idea how much CO2 was used producing a digital camera? You'd be surprised. Or how much toxic waste was produced manufacturing those electronics? How much people died in mines (or have their life shortened) mining the minerals? Repairing to expensive: It's because you compare US/European wages to Chinese or Taiwanese wages. ''Disassemble to 100 components''-> that's obviously a case of bad design where maintenance/repair was not being taken into consideration.

The situation not only holds for electronics. Take cars for example, cars that are 'total loss' here in the west, because repairs outcost the value of a 2nd hand car.. This same car, once driven to Afrika (Marocco for example) can live another 10-15 years with ease. Simply because of the difference in price of labour vs materials. (Not that that is always best for environment...)

Repairs not being economically feasable is much more of a choice, than a necessaty. Guess the situation only will be turned once we either run out of resources either have to pay for all real cost including environmental and eliminating differences in hourly labor costs worldwide.

Re:Oh I can't wait. (1)

Wargames (91725) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909491)

I see non-functioning fully intact big screen tv's on the side of the road all the time and think to myself 'if only I was an EE...'.

Re:Oh I can't wait. (4, Informative)

Alioth (221270) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908325)

It's not multilayer PCBs and SMD that makes electronics uneconomical to repair, it's the purchase price of a new article that does it. In the past, if your television failed, you got it repaired - because in 1979, a colour TV cost (in 2009 money) over £1000. Having a technician charge you £150 in today's money was worth it.

But when a digital camera costs £150, it's not worth spending £150 to get someone to fix it.

Surface mount components aren't all that difficult to rework with practise. Today, many electronics hobbyists work with SMD, personally I've made my own boards with 0.4mm pitch (that's 0.2mm between the pins) LQFPs, and 0603 chip capacitors/resistors etc (about 1/10th of the size of a grain of rice). Many hobbyists are working with leadless QFNs, and some masochists are using 0201 components (2/1000in by 1/1000th in). (For me 0603 is fine, it's small enough to be able to put where I need them, yet large enough I can assemble a board without a magnifying glass).

Printable PCBs would be the holy grail for homebrew PCBs. We've got close - some people have modified printers to print etch resist directly onto copper clad board, which you can then etch. The rest of us typcially use iron-on toner transfer (shiny paper through a laser printer, then ironed onto copper board with a clothes iron) or UV photo exposure methods.

Re:Oh I can't wait. (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908753)

Components are easy to replace on a PWB, at least the first few times until the pads start to lift. I have done rework on 0402 package (0.04" x 0.02") resistors and capacitors using a hand soldering iron. Even finer and larger components can be repaired with a rework station [howardelectronics.com] , using hot air to reflow the solder and suction cups to place/remove components. Of course, this is made simple due to the solder mask, which keeps the solder on the pads and pulls the components with it.

That said, if the PWB itself fails (most likely due to a pad snapping off from rework, maybe through a crack from being flexed and temperature cycled) it's rarely economical to repair. We're talking thicknesses around 0.002-0.008", and the copper and laminates have been baked together. I have never heard of a PWB being repaired by fixing an internal connection.

And if you think today's PWBs are only 7 layers, you're off by a factor of 3-4x.

Re:Oh I can't wait. (1)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908973)

Well you could, you know, remove said electronics from said ass before servicing. Just a thought...

Not too much hype in summary (4, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907919)

When I saw the sentence starting "The possibilities..." I mentally filled it in with "are endless".

I was surprised (and a little gratified) to see the summary actually enumerating some of the possibilities instead of hyping it as is normally done. That's good!

Re:Not too much hype in summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29910445)

You should have known better. Didn't you see the lack of KDawson as the author of the post?

Wait for it (5, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907961)

I can't wait to have a working circuit printed on as a tattoo, with the components inserted as piercings. I'm thinkin' 2 stage amp.

Re:Wait for it (1)

MathFox (686808) | more than 4 years ago | (#29907973)

It could make a short-circuit very painful!

Re:Wait for it (3, Funny)

pyr02k1 (1640167) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908021)

But it'd always be amusing to watch...

Re:Wait for it (1)

Yoozer (1055188) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909831)

"When I flex, it goes to eleven!"

Re:Wait for it (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909003)

Mods, he's very on topic!

It's like an (semi) unloseable copy of your invention. Espionage aside, if your copy is certified dated properly, it would be a neat defense in lawsuit claims.

Re:Wait for it (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909171)

Yes, but when the only replacement part around that works is tatoo'd into your skin, you are going to miss your skin.

Re:Wait for it (2, Funny)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909603)

I can see it already:

"Hey, sorry people, the concert has been canceled, our power amplifier just died"

"But wait, I have an amplifier tattoo'd on my skin!"

*goes sitting in the back of the stage hooked up to the equipment, while other people are enjoying the concert*

massproduction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908017)

Printing like a inktjet is not fast enough, we need rotogravure like speed.

Good for prototypes, good for tech (4, Insightful)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908045)

I'd love to prototype on something like this. But I doubt if the actual output off an inkjet would work beyond the first time I sneeze over it.

Honestly, in some sense I got into software rather than electronics because it was so hard to experiment with electronics freely. This could lower that barrier for hobbyists & more importantly, kids. It needn't last through the weekend, but if it works and you can see it work, it's enough.

Re:Good for prototypes, good for tech (1)

rishistar (662278) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908361)

Conductive Inkjet [conductiveinkjet.com] in the UK are going to be doing a prototyping service coming out in a month or so which should be cheaper than normal routes. But not the same as printing a circuit at home.

Spamming clothes (4, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908079)

From the article:

which will allow wearable electronics -- a T-shirt with a display, say, replacing a printed slogan for marketing or for showing support for a political candidate.

Great, just what I want: Having my clothes turned into a spamming device.
There are certainly countless examples of how wearable electronics could be put to good use, but the first thing they think of is advertising. Very telling, I'd say.

Re:Spamming clothes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908409)

Noone ever wore a t-shirt with a nike swoosh on it? The only difference is now it lights up. Brands are for cattle, I always say...

Re:Spamming clothes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29909807)

Oh God! Pine & Oats, here we come. (shudder).

The actual Xerox link (5, Informative)

NewToNix (668737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908083)

Re:The actual Xerox link (1)

hodagacz (948570) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908161)

That link is a lot more useful, and talks vaguely about semiconductor construction.

Printable PASSIVE electronic devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908101)

You may be able to print barcodes and antenna's - but this will not do ordinary electronics - like say a switching power inverter , or an ipod amplifier. You will not get the density of a PGA or memory. Maybe a bus pass or something - if you were lucky.

If you look at a disk drive head ribbon, you will see they have already been making very flexible circuits on a plastic ribbon. But don't fold it up, as heat dissipation and cross capacitance is still a problem. The density needed for Schotties will not come out of an inkjet.

Components? (3, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908121)

Being able to print the circuit is all well and good, but presumably it's literally just the underlying circuit and components still need to be attached? I'm guessing you can't just print a resistor, a transistor, an IC chip or something?

If I'm correct in this assumption, presumably this technology doesn't really open any new doors in terms of what can be created, only makes the process for testing and eventually producing circuit designs cheaper and possibly quicker?

Re:Components? (1)

cbope (130292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908153)

You are correct. It opens the door for faster prototypes and PCB designs. This is actually a fairly expensive area for any company that makes products that use PCB's. One-off PCB's are very expensive today.

Re:Components? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908633)

Not that much, I can get a one-off 6 layer Eurocard for about 150 euros. It takes time to assemble such a card if it is densely populated.

Re:Components? (1)

willy_me (212994) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908197)

No, I believe that they are talking about actually printing circuits. I know they were talking about printing OLED displays - this would require printing LEDs. An LED is a diode and if you can print a diode you can print a transistor. Resistors, capacitors, and inductors would be easy compared to transistors.

The whole point of this process is for cheap, flexible, disposable electronics. If you have to use chips, the cost would probably increase as soldering chips onto a piece of plastic has to be harder then a PCB. Anyway, below is a quote from the article:

Integrated circuits are made up of three components - a semiconductor, a conductor and a dielectric element - and currently are manufactured in costly silicon chip fabricating factories. By creating a breakthrough silver ink to print the conductor, Xerox has developed all three of the materials necessary for printing plastic circuits.

So you can see that the goal is to replace the chips. In reality, it will likely replace both chips and the board for low cost electronics.

Re:Components? (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908333)

That really is quite cool then, if you can print a full blown working circuit onto any printable surface that really does open up a lot of doors for new technology.

Re:Components? (1)

cbhacking (979169) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908351)

The ability to print semiconductors (diodes, LEDs, and transistors) does not necessarily translate to the ability to print resistors (semiconductors have a near-constant voltage drop regardless of current, very different from a resistor), capacitors (no way this thing has the resolution to print *that* much surface area, and you still need a dielectric for any decent capacitance), or inductors (resolution again, plus you won't get much unless you can coil the conductor). There will still be a need for surface-mounted components. The difference is that what previously required a very expensive one-off circuit board plus components now is easy thanks to cheap print-your-own-at-home circuit boards - and if they can integrate semiconductors into the board directly, so much the better.

The printer and ink won't come cheap, but compared to the cost of one-off PCBs... if it's good enough and cheap enough, this thing could revitalize the electronics industry by taking low-budget electronics design way beyond the realm of breadboards.

Re:Components? (1)

willy_me (212994) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908907)

Resistors could be printed by using a semi-conductive compound. Adjust the width, length, and depth of the printed element to adjust the value.

Capacitors could be printed in multiple layers. First a conductive layer, then a dielectric layer, then a conductive layer. Repeat the process to produce a capacitor of the desired value. They have already developed the required dielectric compounds.

Inductors are obvious, but likely limited in value due to the difficulties in printing in three dimensions. It would still be possible but would require multiple layers. Possible, but most would end up being a simple trace of squiggles. But inductors needing to support large currents would be near impossible to create - so no switching power supplies.

So it would be possible, but also quite limiting. The circuit would be spread out and limited with respect to operating speed (for digital circuits). I would also question the accuracy of any printed analog circuits. Those printed on a stiff background might be ok, but flexible plastic would likely result in problems if, for example, you are trying to make an accurate amplifier. But that is just speculation and I would welcome someone who could prove me wrong.

As far as costs go, this method should be much cheaper then the traditional method of making and then populating a PCB. If it were not cheaper, it would have little value.

The printer and ink won't come cheap, but compared to the cost of one-off PCBs... if it's good enough and cheap enough, this thing could revitalize the electronics industry by taking low-budget electronics design way beyond the realm of breadboards.

Ok, while this would be incredibly cool - it would not revitalize anything. Getting a PCB build is not very expensive. It is really only a hindrance to students on a budget. Compared to the time invested in designing a PCB, getting one built is actually quite cheap. Where it might actually make a difference is with hobbyists who are designing integrated circuits. It would make it feasible to design and build a circuit where traditionally one would rely on ICs. So yes, it is very cool and has some real potential. But the only thing it will help revitalize is the way electronic classes are taught - the industry as a whole will not be transformed.

Re:Components? (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908529)

so what you are saying is, the annoying musical animated fruit-loops box from minority report is mere decades away?

Re:Components? (4, Insightful)

Genda (560240) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908223)

Actually, there are long term research projects going on into other printable materials that can produce resistors, capacitors, and FET transistors that would be useful in building complete digital devices. You're never going to get the kind of densities available in silicon, however, you can stack many layers of plastic film, and create a three dimensional device that would yield serious computing possibilities. You might even be able mix optical and electronic technologies in a large device of this type. You could build custom flexible logic devices home, business, or play. You could build intelligence into machines and products that you never considered candidates for intelligence before. It would be a transformative technology.

Re:Components? (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908477)

Now you mention it I do recall reading about the idea of printing multiple layers to produce 3D devices that are still essentially almost flat because of how thin the layers are, although I can't remember where from!

As you say, being able to print full blown working circuits would open up a lot of new doors!

Re:Components? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908243)

Actually the idea of current printable electronics research is to print the components as well. In other words the objective is to get a functional electronic device out of a relatively simple printer. AFAIK there are prototype systems that can print resistors, diodes and capacitors, and there are even energy sources that can be included as a power supply in a printed circuit. I don't think they are aiming for the kind of resolution that would allow large-scale integrated circuits like microprocessors as of yet.

Re:Components? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908515)

In what way is this insightful? Bloody obvious would be my tag.

Re:Components: Resistor (1)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908563)

Well your silver "lane" will have a certain resistance. Printing a thin wiggely line will make a nice resistor. Two lines just next to each other a capacitor. Obviously you will be limited in the range of Ohms / Farads available, but some basic components should be possible.

better than two lines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29909951)

if it can layer conductor and insulator it could make sheets layered on top possibly alternating several times. or printing a piezo, you could make a careful shaped series of piezos produce reasonably passable audio also compensating for the resonance of the shell.

Paper + Electricity = Fire (1)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908301)

I'm a long way from Einstein, but even I know that.

I admit, it does sound very cool; and maybe on plastic (or polymer) it might have some chance of working. Paper, cardboard, or fabrics however are not a good idea.

Hm. No. (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908727)

It's going to be very hard to start a fire on the typical 1 to 5V potential used in everyday electronics. I don't suppose that kind of thing will be used for power electronic. And yeah, I know lithium batteries can easily start a fire but they don't need paper PCBs to do that.

Re:Paper + Electricity = Fire (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909055)

Open up some electronics sometime, or for that matter, dissect some batteries. What do they often use for insulation? Paper.

Heck, paper used to be used to insulate high voltage AC in appliances and homes.

It's not all that dangerous, especially for low-voltage use. For higher-current applications you probably want flame-retardant treatment on the paper to reduce the risk of combustion, but it really isn't a problem.

Even more definite no (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909127)

Einstein wouldn't have known that. He was a mathematical theoretical physicist, not an engineer. But you are wrong for another reason. Most low end PCBs are actually printed on a polymer-loaded paper substrate not that far from cardboard. Most modern paper burns very badly because a major component is clay - it's extremely hard to burn a magazine as they tend to have very highly loaded paper to allow full color printing. A modern mechanically polished paper substrate printed with a thin layer of UV cured polymer - which is basically what a full gloss brochure typically is made from - would be a "good enough" substrate for short life printable electronics.

wearables .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908359)

I see a use in wearables [bradleyrhodes.com] , devices built into your clothes ..
-------

Making (microsoft) ACPI not work with Linux ..

"Foxconn .. have several different tables, a group for Windws XP and Vista, a group for 2000, a group for NT, Me, 95, 98, etc. that just errors out, and one for LINUX [ubuntuforums.org] .

The one for Linux points to a badly written table that does not correspond to the board's ACPI implementation, causing weird kernel errors, strange system freezing, no suspend or hibernate, and other problems"

'You are incorrect in that the motherboard is not ACPI complaint. If it were not, then it would not have received Microsoft Certification for WHQL', Foxconn


'One thing I find myself wondering about is whether we shouldn't try and make the "ACPI" extensions somehow Windows specific [slated.org] ', billg Jan 1999

Re:wearables .. (1)

wurp (51446) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909555)

Have you read Vernor Vinge's "Rainbows End"?

Combined with 3D print tech (1)

CiderJack (961987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908447)

I can see this making the 3D printer *truly* revolutionary...! So what if next year you can create your own 64mb stick (block?) of ram that is 6x6 inches... in 5 years it will be 10 times as much ram, and one-half the size! Cheaper than buying silicon? Who knows... Technology only improves - as long as the world's economy doesn't collapse.... http://www.collapsemovie.com/ [collapsemovie.com] Cheers! ;)

How ridiculous, prior art, etc.. (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908485)

There are dozens of patents, going back to 1940, for printing conductors on a surface.

  IBM based their 360 line of computers on a set of circuit modules which had the conductors (probably silk-screen printed) onto a ceramic wafer.

So there is nothing remotely new about printing conductors. Or resistors.

You can't print semiconductors-- transistors, diodes, FETs or LEDS-- they have to be very pure crystalline solids with definite junctions, so that's a big roadblock.

Re:How ridiculous, prior art, etc.. (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908833)

The problem is that to sinter "normal" silver particles you used to need extremely high temperatures, normal oven sintering would destroy paper and plastic substrates (although flash sintering with microwaves or high intensity strobes can still work). They managed to create 5 nm sized particle suspensions which can be sintered at much lower temperatures.

You seriously never heard of polymer semiconductors? (OLEDs ring a bell?)

Ahem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29909801)

You can't print semiconductors-- transistors, diodes, FETs or LEDS-- they have to be very pure crystalline solids with definite junctions, so that's a big roadblock.

TFTs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thin-film_transistor

TFTs can be made using a wide variety of semiconductor materials. A common material is silicon. The characteristics of a silicon based TFT depend on the crystalline state. That is, the semiconductor layer can be either amorphous silicon, microcrystalline silicon, or it can be annealed into polysilicon.

I would say that your knowledge of transistors is somewhat outdated.

Cost (1)

meyekul (1204876) | more than 4 years ago | (#29908541)

How much is this magic conductive PCB ink and printer going to cost though? If it is anything like the magnetic ink you need for printing checks, I think they just raised the entry bar a fair bit. BTW you can already print your own PCBs, you just need a regular laser printer and some acid to etch out the pattern. There are numerous guides on Google about how to do this on the cheap.

PR summary, give me some eyewash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908575)

Xerox announced a new silver ink that it's calling a breakthrough in printable electronics, a leading-edge concept that's generated a lot of discussion but few actual products to date.

So it's a real leading-edge breakthrough concept for the space age, eh?

Why?

Oh gosh, don't keep me waiting for the answer!

Precisely because of the issues that Xerox claims to have addressed.

Are you sure it's precise? And what are these issues?

In concept, printable electronics is just what it sounds like:

Thanks for that intro. I was really scratching my head as to what it meant, since "printable electronics" just doesn't bring to mind anything clear.

If this can be done reliably, electronic devices can be printed for far less than current methods cost.

And if we can develop a cheaper alternative to oil, we'll be able to have a cheaper alternative to oil. Oh, right, there's the question of how. How will these printable electronics be done reliably? And I'm sure that's the problem that everyone's trying to solve.

The possibilities range from printing on flexible plastic, to paper and cardboard, to fabric.

So in summary, this will impact everything from watch making to watch repair? OK sorry, had to end this critique on a light note.

No problem.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29908601)

All you need is a standard sheet with pin holes in standard grid configuration. You print out the circuit, and insert your components through the holes, them clip them in place underneath,( or solder if the substrate can handle the heat!). I envision something like the clip on the back of an earring to hold them in place.

Tinfoil hat inversion (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29909191)

Now I can print a silver etched paper hat antenna which will magnify the signals into my brain. Oh, listen to all the sweet voices!

If they can print circuits on fabric... (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29910235)

ThinkGeek will have a field day.
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