Roll-to-Roll Printing Line Upgraded to Roll-to-Roll Assembly Line
One of the reasons there is so much given to flexible electronics is not because of their added resilience but their economic viability. Traditional electronics are made with a step-by-step method that can require multiple machines, and the time it takes to move a component from one machine to another is time taken from making another item for sale. Flexible electronics however could be mass produced within a single machine using a roll-to-roll process, similar to how newspapers are printed.
The PrintoCent Pilot Factory, at the VTT Technical Research Center in Finland, is one of the worlds most advanced roll-to-roll printing factories and has recently been upgraded to be a roll-to-roll assembly factory. Instead of just producing a single finished flexible component from the materials supplied at the beginning, this roll-to-roll assembly line will be able to produce more complicated devices with rigid components, such as modern semiconductor technologies. Later this year the researchers hope to add an injection molding machine that enable 3D printing by the assembly line.
This kind of production could drastically affect the future of electronics as it will enable mass production of devices such as displays, solar cells, and even some computing components. With such mass production driving the supply, the prices of these devices could drop considerably. Also with such an efficient production method, companies could create prototypes of advanced products cheaply and quickly, for pre-commercial testing purposes.