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Peratech, CPI team up for reel to reel QTC print

Posted: 08 Apr 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:QTC? HMI? touchscreen? sensor?

Peratech has collaborated with The Center for Process Innovation (CPI) to develop new formulations for its QTC materials. The work is supported by government funding as a R&D Technology Strategy Board (TSB) project.

QTC ink formulations are silk-screen printed and are being used successfully to create pressure sensitive sensors and to print Peratech's innovative QTC Clear touchscreens. The project will establish if existing commercial printing machinery can be used to print a new generation of printable electronics, including QTC sensors, which is a rapidly expanding area of print technology with a clear potential to reduce the weight, component and assembly cost of a vast range of future products.

Until now, the missing piece of the printed electronics jigsaw has been the switches and similar human machine interfaces (HMI) such as touchpads as they typically need structures that cannot be screen printed and are vulnerable to water or dirt ingress getting between contacts. By contrast, QTC switches are solid state with no moving parts giving them a long operational life and robustness against contamination.

The QTC switches can be simple on/off or provide a variable response as their resistance changes according to the pressure applied. QTC touchscreens are similarly a solid state film of QTC providing x and y co-ordinate input along with z from the amount of pressure applied. The development of QTC inks that can be printed with standard printing techniques at the same time as the other components will enable the whole field of printed electronics to take off by providing this control interface.

The research project with CPI is halfway to completion, with several promising formulations being tested. The first run of printed QTC electronics using a standard flexographic press was successfully done in February this year and signals another quantum leap for Peratech.

Apart from printing switches and pressure sensors, Peratech is also researching ways to print its QTC E-nose sensors, which can detect volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In these sensors the QTC material expands in the presence of VOCs, changing its resistance and giving very rapid response and recovery times, along with a high level of sensitivity. Different formulations can be made according to the specific VOC to be detected so that low cost warning sensors and the associated electronics can be incorporated into textiles to provide clothing that monitors the wearer for signs of illness, fatigue or exposure to dangerous chemicals.

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