Researchers Improve on Gravure-Printing Techniques Used in High-Speed Printed Electronics

Achievement date: 
2016
Outcome/accomplishment: 

A research team at the Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Mobile Energy Technologies (NASCENT) center, an NSF-funded Nanosystems Engineering Research Center (NERC) headquartered at The University of Texas at Austin, have scaled down cells used in gravure printing ten-fold at rates of 1 meter/second. Gravure is used to etch printed electronics.

Impact/benefits: 

Electronics produced through high-resolution, high-speed gravure printing include low-cost, lightweight, large area flexible electronics such as bendable displays and low-cost sensor networks. The team also discovered a proximity effect by which the first printed line loses some ink to subsequent lines, facilitating a feature that assists pattern formation. 

Explanation/Background: 

Traditional gravure printing uses a roll with engraved or etched cells. These cells make up the pattern and ink is transferred from them to the final substrate such as plastic or paper. One of the key limitations of traditional gravure rolls is the size of the cells, which is very challenging to scale down below 10µm. This work breaks that scale barrier and possibly provides a process to make  curved templates for rollers or belts for R2R nanoimprint lithography. The identification of assist features significantly increases the opportunities for control of the gravure process.