NTU Singapore prints electronic circuits with a t-shirt printer

Printed flexible electronic circuit from NTU Singapore

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore has successfully printed complex electronic circuits using a common t-shirt printer. The electronic circuits are printed using unique materials in layers on top of everyday flexible materials such as plastic, aluminium foil and even paper. Resistors, transistors and capacitors, the key components of a complex electronic circuit, are printed using non-toxic organic materials like silver nanoparticles, carbon and plastics.

Associate professor Joseph Chang, leader of the NTU research group, said their unique technique has made mass production of cheap disposable electronic circuits possible: “This means we can have smarter products, such as a carton that tells you exactly when the milk expires, a bandage that prompts you when it is time for a redressing, and smart patches that can monitor life signals like your heart rate.”

“We are not competing with high-end processors like those found in smartphones and electronic devices. Instead we complement them with cheaply printed circuits that cost mere cents instead of a few dollars, making disposable electronics a reality,” adds Chang. The types of complex circuits the team has successfully printed include a 4-bit digital-to-analog converter – a component commonly used in turning digital signals into sound for speakers and headphones; and RFID tags, commonly used for the tracking of goods.

The key difference between Prof Chang’s method and other types of printed electronics is that it is fully additive, which makes it very eco-friendly. The circuits are printed entirely without the use of any toxic chemicals or oxidising agents.

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