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Inkjet printers see sharper focus for flexible electronics

Posted: 01 Dec 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Fujifilm Dimatix Inc.? MEMS? RFID? RFID tags? inkjet printers?

Fujifilm Dimatix Inc. said it has improved the resolution of its electronics-use inkjet printers to approximately 20?m lines and spaces. The company said it leveraged MEMS-based nozzles in its fluid cartridges to deposit 1pL drops of organic and inorganic materials.

The company was formed earlier this year when Fujifilm acquired Dimatix for an undisclosed price. The California-based operation said it has sold about 100 electronics-use inkjet printers to R&D centers, which use the systems to print prototypes of RFID tags, sensors and other flexible electronics.

Martin Schoeppler, VP of marketing, said the improved resolution comes from a new generation of nozzles, based on MEMS technology. The ability to achieve 20?m resolution depends on the substrates and fluids, Schoeppler said.

"We know we can bring it down further, from 20-25?m lines and spaces now to 10? in about two to five years," Schoeppler said.

Developers of backplanes for flexible displays have used the systems to improve the pixel spacing in cellphone displays, tweaking the transistor structure for the row and column drivers. Developers of RFID tags, meanwhile, have used the inkjet printers to deposit the antenna structures in RFID tags, Schoeppler said.

Nozzles based on MEMS technology are key to better precision for inkjet printers.

Research labs use printers to create prototypes through an additive process that does not require the masks or lithography equipment used in a subtractive process. With little material waste, the additive process is said to be well-suited to the smaller lot sizes needed for product development.

Dimatix is also working to develop systems with multiple-nozzle printheads. According to Schoeppler, one customer is working on a system with 16,000 nozzles. Materials suppliers are also developing more fluids, including silver, copper, gold and nickel composites, for the systems.

The 20?m resolution MEMS-based nozzles are about 14?2 in size. Dimatix manufactures the nozzles using silicon-etching techniques.

- David Lammers
EE Times

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