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EPTE Newsletter from Japan: nano tech 2009, Part II
Thursday, March 12, 2009 | Dominique K. Numakura - DKN Research

This is the second in a series of newsletters from DKN Research that details observations from nano tech 2009 International Nanotechnology Exhibition & Conference. 

The Printable Electronics section of the show drew a lot of attention at the exhibition. The booth spaces allocated for printable electronics were not very large and its total floor space accounted for less than 10% of the entire show. I estimate that about 50 companies representing the printable electronics industry were set up in this special zone. One of the exhibitors complained to me that they requested booth placement in the printable electronics zone, but the space was fully occupied, and their booth was placed outside the zone. More than hundred companies shared the same frustration and did not get the chance to have their booths in highly featured space.

More than 200 companies and organizations displayed products or other related technologies associated with printable electronics. Unfortunately, I did not find many application technologies for printable electronics, but I did check out multiple displays promoting basic technologies, materials, processing equipment and related technologies. This convention could be the largest event for printable electronics in the world. The rookie just entering the field, as well as the seasoned veteran, could gather much technical and business information.

The first step to consider if researching printable electronics is to become knowledgeable with the printing equipment used. Many types of printers were available; however, since screen-printing is the most practical process for printable electronics, multiple companies displayed their latest printers and screen mask products. Some companies claimed that patterns finer than a 20 micton pitch were possible using the screen-printing process; however, for this to be true, all conditions must be optimized.  Practical ranges of the fine lines are 30 to 50 micron pitches for the conductive traces.

Ink-jet printers could the second choice for printable electronics and several companies promote these printers. Unfortunately, most companies displayed only panels from the printers because they are trading companies and cannot import the machines without actually purchasing them. Staffing at the booths presented another problem. Most of the representatives were not experts in the printable electronics field, nor were they proficient with communicating the characteristics, details or advantages of their products.

Other printers featured at the show were geared towards the gravure and planography processes. These printers were developed for general printing jobs such as books and newspapers. But one machine company displayed several compact size printers designed specifically for printable electronics. One huge advantage of these printers is the extremely high processing speeds compared to screen and ink-jet printers. Their use is limited in the printable electronics arena; however, they will be the front-runner for volume production in the future.

So, once you become knowledgeable with the various types of printers, your next step is to learn all about the ink material. I viewed many conductive inks at the show, and all the ink vendors were pitching their higher conductivities and higher resolutions compared to the traditional silver base inks (assuming the screen-printing process).  There are two kinds of new conductive inks: The first is "nano paste" that uses nanometer sized silver particles as a conductive material. Manufacturers claim the nano paste provides finer lines with lower resistance compared to traditional silver base conductive inks. This may be true; however, the cost for nano paste is very high, and it is difficult to compare inks based on cost as it is difficult to verify any data from the end customer.

The second type of conductive ink is organic silver paste. The organic silver compounds change to metallic silver during the baking process. The electrical performances are equal to, or superior to, nano paste and the cost is much lower. Accordingly, its cost performances are much higher, making it a balanced solution--especially for consumer application.

One problem with these materials is that most of the ink vendors developed only conductor materials. A great enhancement from material vendors would be to supply not only conductor materials, but also insulation materials, resistor materials, magnetic materials, optical materials and more.

I discovered a couple of unique printable materials at the show. One of them is piezo active materials, which can be considered a key material to generate printable MEMS. Another unique printable material is liquid crystal molecule in a micron size capsule, and could possibly be used to generate printable LCD panels.

Dominique K. Numakura

DKN Research,


Headlines of the Week

(Please contact for further information on the news.)

1. Gunze (Major polymer materials supplier in Japan) 3/2
The supplier has developed a new hydrogen gas sensor based on solid state electrolyte. Gunze has also unveiled a new high performance gas diffusion membrane made with CNT (carbon nano tube) material for fuel cells.

2. Idemitsu (Major petroleum chemical company in Japan) 3/2
The company has unveiled a new all solid-state lithium ion secondary battery with high heat resistance for automobile applications.

3. Toray Engineering (Equipment manufacturer in Japan) 3/2
The manufacturer has commercialized a series of equipment for manufacturing processes of  secondary batteries.

4. Rohm (Major device manufacturer in Japan) 2/27
The manufacturer has rolled out a new, seamless lighting system, "R-CK001," with an LED array for floor lighting.

5. Sharp (Major electronics company in Japan) 3/3
The company has unveiled its basic concept of the solar cell power generation system for home appliances for installation on the roof of houses.

6. Panasonic Electric (Major PWB material supplier in Japan) 3/3
The supplier will commercialize over 300 new part numbers of LED lighting devices for home applications and non-home applications during the spring season.

7. NEC LCD (Major display device manufacture in Japan) 3/4
The manufacturer will close its LCD manufacturing plant in Kyushu to improve productivity by the end of 2009. Production will be transferred to the Akita plant.

8. Display manufacturers in Taiwan 3/5
The manufacturer has increased its shipment of small- and middle-sized LCD panels from 10 to 20% in February.

9. Organic Electronics Laboratory (Private R&D firm in Japan) 3/3
The firm displayed several types of organic LED lighting devices with reflection or scattering back panels featuring higher brightness during the Light Fair in Tokyo, Japan.

Interesting Literature Concerning the Packaging Industry

Articles from DKN Research

1. New "Introduction of the Manufacturing Process for Printable Electronics," Dominique Numakura, January, 2009, Nikkan Kogyo Shinbun (Japanese only).

2. "Screen Printing for High-Density Flexible Electronics," Robert Turunen, Masafumi Nakayama and Dominique Numakura, Printed Circuit FAB, October, 2007,

3.  "Roll to Roll Production of Flexible Circuits, Possibilities and Issues," Dominique Numakura, Joho Kiko, Tokyo, March, 2008 (Japanese only).

4. "Coombs' Printed Circuits Handbook, 6th Edition, Part 15-Flexible Circuits," Dominique Numakura, McGraw Hill, New York, September, 2007.

5. "Screen Printing Process for High Density Flexible Electronics," Robert Turunen, Dominique Numakura, Masafumi Nakayama and Hisayuki Kawasaki, IPC Printed Circuit Expo/APEX and the Designers Summit, April, 2008.

6. "Global Flexible Circuit Industry, Market Trends and Technology Trends by Applications," Dominique Numakura, International Symposium of KPCA Show, April, 2008 (English PowerPoint file is available).

From the Major Industry Magazines

1. "The Gig Deal Over Fine Pitch Assembly," Zulki Khan, CircuiTree, February, 2009.

2. "Eliminating Muda: One Company's Journey," Don Sivilotti, Circuits Assembly, January, 2009.

3. "Via Optimization for Speed," Cuong Nguyen, SMT,  December, 2008.

4. "Embedded Active Components in Multilayer LCP Packages," Swapan Bhattacharya, Nickolas Kingsley, Chad Patterson and John Papapolymerou, Printed Circuit Design & FAB, February, 2009.

5. "Collective Hybrid Bonding for 3D IC Stacks." Anne Jourdian, Bart Swinnen, Eric Beyne and Stefan Pargrieder, Advanced Packaging, November/December, 2008.

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