Powercast and Liquid X announce printed electronics venture
Powercast Corporation (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), a leader in radio-frequency (RF)-based long-range over-the-air wireless power technology, and Liquid X (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), an advanced manufacturer of functional metallic inks with prototype-to-production design and manufacturing capabilities, recently announced a printed electronics venture to enable garment manufacturers to easily integrate wireless power functionality into durable, flexible, high performance and washable e-textiles.
Utilising Liquid X’s proprietary ink technology, manufacturers can print circuitry directly onto a garment, add Powercast’s wireless power technology and a battery, and seal this all into the garment during the manufacturing process. The two companies’ goal is to enable cost-effective manufacturing of durable e-textiles, with battery-powered features such as health and wellness, movement monitoring, or LED-based illumination embedded directly into garments, that consumers can conveniently recharge over the air, and wash, without having to remove a battery pack.
Today’s smart garments often snap electronics onto the garment along with battery packs that users must detach before washing. With the combined technologies of Liquid X and Powercast, now manufacturers can integrate the electronics directly into the garment. First, circuitry is printed on the fabric using Liquid X’s proprietary particle-free ink, including Powercast’s RF wireless receiving antenna. Next, Powercast’s Powerharvester RF wireless power receiver chip, a battery, and other components are mounted onto the printed traces. Finally, an encapsulant provides a high strength waterproof bond to seal in all of the electronics.
To recharge the battery, consumers simply place a Powercast RF transmitter in the closet or drawer where they store their smart wearable. It transmits RF energy over the air to the RF receiver embedded in the wearable, which then converts it to direct current (DC) to charge the battery.
The two Pittsburgh-based companies showcased at CES in January 2020 a wirelessly rechargeable smart athletic shirt prototype that illuminates using printed electronics, embedded power harvesting technology, and LEDs powered over the air up to 10 feet away from the wireless transmitter.
Caption: Top to bottom: LEDs mounted to printed traces, Powercast’s Powerharvester RF wireless receiver chip (black) and tuning components, and the printed 6” Powerharvesting receiving antenna (photo: Powercast)