Six companies from four EU countries have banned together to launch a consortium aimed at accelerating the use of flexible electronics. Supported and funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program, the Printed Intelligent NFC Game Cards and Packaging (PING) initiative hopes to advance flexible electronics from the lab to mainstream markets.
The overall goal of the PING consortium is to create a platform that enables and facilitates the production of smart printed objects based on new technologies. Flexible thin-film electronics and printed materials like cards, stickers and packaging can make a perfect combination in the move to adopt the Internet of Things.
The founding members of PING include Smartrac, Cartamundi, Van Genechten Packaging, PragmatIC, TNO and imec. Ultimately, Cartamundi, a manufacturer of playing cards and collectible card games, hopes to print individual cards that carry NFC and RFID tags.
“We are creating game changing technology,” says Steven Nietvelt, the CTO at Cartamundi, which is leading the project. “The overall goal of this consortium is to enable and facilitate the production of smart printed objects.”
Within three years, PING intends to establish a standardized low cost and high volume manufacturing flow for embedding wireless identification and power transfer technology into printed objects like packaging and stickers and printable substrates such as paper, cardboard and plastic.
The process, based on innovative thin-film electronics, will enable the identification and interaction of printed objects through standard NFC and RFID reading devices, including smartphones. The project will also explore the integration of additional features such as sensors, displays and sound, ultimately paving the way to the realization of the Internet of Things and the “Internet of Games.”
“To make this happen we will develop extremely thin, flexible and durable electronics and we need to establish the supply chain that allows for standardized manufacturing at the lowest cost and highest volumes,” says Nietvelt
Imec and TNO will focus on the development of a flexible thin-film technology and chip design. PragmatIC will work with imec and TNO to align developed designs with its own mass manufacturing processes, transferring future generation NFC chips into commercial production.
Smartrac will contribute its expertise in antenna design and printing technologies with a special focus on the connection interface between the printed antenna and TFT electronics. Cartamundi and Van Genechten Packaging will perform the last step of the supply chain, which includes embedding the electronics in printed products.