As the new century starts really picking up steam, a brave new dawn for electronics looms. Electronic devices and components are starting to incorporate organic materials into their manufacturing process. This allows them and their circuitry to adopt shapes and forms that were previously unthinkable.
A multiform industry
The term ‘plastic’ electronics is something of a cover-all phrase, embracing a number of markets, products and industries. Even the names for it are interchangeable, as it’s also commonly known as printed, flexible and organic electronics.
Whatever you choose to call it, this is a whole new technological phenomenon that cuts across all types of sectors and applications. Moreover, we’re seeing just the bare beginnings of its transformative effects on our workaday lives.
Plastic electronic circuitry is based not on the old familiar stiff circuit boards but on a range of substrates that are relatively lighter, thinner and flexible, and which can be easily mass-produced and, importantly, safely disposed.
The possible applications for this new technology are limited only by the human imagination. It runs the entire gamut of life, from humble households to international industrial operations. Street signage, mobile displays, lighting, healthcare, packaging, security, sensors, memory and batteries are just a few familiar areas that are set to start being transformed by these remarkable new materials. They are already starting to make an appearance in the public arena, and as time goes on they will become a more familiar aspect of our lives, both at home and at work.
The paperless future that people have been talking about ad infinitum for the past few decades is now practically upon us. But the big stumbling block has always been the availability of a paper substitute. Now that leading developers such as Plastic Logic are developing robust, lightweight and flexible displays, these may well constitute a solution to that particular challenge.
As Plastic Logic CEO Indro Mukerjee has pointed out: “Plastic Logic’s flexible plastic displays are completely transformational in terms of product interaction.”
He stressed also that: “Plastic Logic’s development of a colour flexible plastic display is particularly significant, since the same process could enable unbreakable, flexible display solutions with other media such as LCD and OLED.”
Soon we’ll be able to routinely make notes and prepare documents on e-paper and update to the Cloud. Flexible displays will receive images, documents and a range of other data wirelessly direct from a smart phone or other mobile device.
Everything at your fingertips
A lightweight, robust and flexible sheet of plastic that receives data in the same way as the more rigid devices we’re familiar with can be put to all sorts of innovative and exciting uses. Imagine having your entire library of books available on a lightweight sheet of Perspex that can be folded up and kept in your pocket. Or think of how traditional newspapers will be replaced by e-paper sheets that are constantly updated by streamed content beamed in from your smart phone.
It’s envisaged that within the next couple of decades that these and a multitude of other applications of plastic electronics technology will completely transform the ways in which we interact with our devices. Although there are still technical hurdles to be overcome before the full benefits kick in, market leaders like Plastic Logic are confident that the main difficulties are now safely behind us and that we are on the cusp of remarkable things.