Benefits and Uses of Flexible Printed Sensors

Posted by Casey Cephas | 5/27/20 11:02 AM

From refrigerators to lightbulbs, it seems like every type of product today is getting “smarter.” One technology that is helping to push innovation forward is the printed sensor.

The market for printed sensors has skyrocketed over the past years – and is expected to hit over $15b by 2025. These flexible, low-profile sensors open up new design opportunities for medical wearable devices, smart packaging, touch-enabled electronics, and many other types of products. 

How Printed Sensors Work Compared to Conventional Sensors

Traditional sensors use rigid materials such as silicon, ceramics, and glass. So while these types of sensors have been useful, they can also be bulky, fragile, and expensive to produce.

On the other hand, printed sensors are typically made with polymers and specialty inks that are placed directly onto a substrate such as plastic, foil, paper, or textile.

Printed sensors offer numerous of benefits, including:

  • Creating smaller, more flexible products
  • Cost-efficient mass production
  • Reduced material cost by integrating sensors with other components
  • Sensor capabilities over large areas
  • Fast responses to stimuli
  • Ideal for flexible displays, batteries, and solar products

Types of Printed Sensors

  1. Printed biosensor.
    Biosensors can measure a reaction between an enzyme and a bodily fluid. The most common example is a blood glucose strip for diabetes patients. However, this technology can also be used to gather other information from blood, saliva, and sweat.
  1. Printed biometric sensor.
    Also known as electrochemical biosensor, these sensors measure the user’s natural electrical impulses such as heart rate, respiration rate, brain activity, and muscle activity.
  1. Printed touch sensor.
    Used in popular consumer devices such as smartphones and tablets, touch sensors (also called capacitive sensors) can improve a product’s usability and replace mechanical switches. These sensors can also be integrated into in-mold electronics. 
  1. Printed force sensor.
    Typically larger than touch sensors, force sensors can be used for human-machine interfaces (HMI) or weighing objects in industrial settings.
  1. Printed temperature sensor.
    Printed sensors can provide a large surface area for temperature measurement. The flexible form factor also improves thermal contact. Application examples include passive UHF sensor tags and flexible sensor arrays.  
  1. Printed humidity sensor.
    To control environmental conditions or to protect electronic devices, printed humidity sensors can be in a range of applications, including wireless monitoring or a fast, low-power operation with a carbon nanotube.
  1. Printed chemical sensor.
    Featuring chemical-sensitive inks, these sensors react to the presence of a specific chemical. These sensors are often used in medical, safety, or quality control products.
  1. Printed gas sensor.
    Due to a growing concern over indoor and outdoor air quality, the market for gas sensors is expected to reach $3b by 2027. Printed gas sensors are compact, versatile, and use minimal power.  

Custom Converting of Printed Sensors

Printing the specialty ink onto the substrate is only the first step in incorporating flexible printed sensors into your design. Using a wide range of custom converting processes, you can tailor the size and purpose of the sensor to improve your product’s functionality or manufacturability. 

Get Started with Printed Sensors.

At Tapecon, we have over 100 years of experience helping customers solve their complex product challenges. Learn more about our flexible printed electronics applications.

 

Topics: Manufacturing, Printing, Printed Electronics

Written by Casey Cephas

Casey is the Marketing Coordinator at Tapecon Inc.

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