Sunday, January 10, 2016

Printed Electronics: The Key to the Proliferation of IoT

In the years to come, 3D printing techniques will be optimized to create integrated circuits and other plastic printed electronics, which will be critical to the development and proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT is the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enable these objects to collect and exchange data. IoT will bring about the innovative connectivity of devices, systems and services to advance automation in nearly every industry. With IoT, connectivity is possible for devices like human heart monitor implants, biochips in farm animals, field operation tools for police and firemen and built-in sensor packages for automobiles and kitchen appliances. 

The industry itself is growing at an alarming rate. Forbes estimates that within the next five years, there will be more than 25 billion devices, sensors and chips handling upwards of 50 trillion gigabytes of data.

The value of IoT is that it provides insight into data and trends that weren’t previously visible.  Feeling bogged down at work with tedious, repetitive tasks?  Perhaps not for long.  IoT promises to absorb those tasks for us, allowing people to flourish at their jobs.  In fact, many industries are already taking advantage of IoT. For example, the utility industry is using IoT to enable the construction of smart energy grids, which can allow them to save money and increase efficiency. In the healthcare industry, we are seeing the proliferation of wearable technology.

PV Nano Cell’s Sicrys™ nanometric conductive inks are currently being used to accelerate the adoption of printed electronics and have the potential to move the IoT industry to increased growth.  With the advancement of printed electronics, intelligence can be brought to virtually any object by enabling the use of fast, inexpensive inkjet printing technologies that can be used on flexible substrates such as plastic, fabric or even paper, as well as enabling 2.5D and 3D printed electronics.

With 3D printing, the electronics can be embedded within the structural material, which promises to revolutionize the electronics industry by allowing for smaller, lighter, more efficient and more customized products. Our Sicrys™ nanometric conductive inks are already being used to develop antennas and printed circuit boards.

Of all the technology trends that are taking place right now, one of the most fascinating is the advancement of IoT technologies. IoT is expected to result in the most disruption, opening doors to new opportunities over the next few years. Enabling IoT through the production and advancement of technologies is key to driving the industry. PV Nano Cell looks forward to being apart of this world-changing trend.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Advancing Technologies, Decreasing Costs

Between the Paris climate talks and the extension of the federal investment tax credit (ITC), the solar industry has been making headlines in recent weeks. Whether advancing the technologies we have or developing new ones, bringing down costs and increasing efficiencies will ultimately determine the success in the adoption of solar innovation.

Solar technology has long been regarded as expensive to install and maintain, which is why initiatives have been devised in order to encourage widespread adoption. Recently the industry’s collective emphasis has been on how to lower the costs of installation and maintenance, which are considered “soft costs.” Labor, permitting, and customer acquisition do come with a hefty price tag, and indeed, improvements are being made to help lower these costs.

However, to effectively lower the barriers to market entry within the solar industry, we must also advance innovations that can reduce hard costs – expenses directly related to the photovoltaic (PV) cells and other solar equipment. Solar cells currently cost 100 times less than in 1977. That is a significant cost reduction to be accomplished in less than 40 years. With new technologies, there is even more room for hard cost reduction.

In the manufacturing of solar cells, current methods often lead to breakage of the cells when they come in contact with the screen printing mechanics. This breakage is a waste of silicon, which makes up about 75 percent of the cost of the cell. Additionally, with the risk of breakage already looming, the thickness of the solar cells cannot be decreased as this would make breakage even more prevalent.

So what can be done to solve this? A transition to digital inkjet printing can help solve the breakage problem. In digital inkjet printing, the mechanics never come in contact with the solar cell, decreasing breakage and also allowing for thinner cells to be developed.

The hurdle that made digital inkjet printing previously not possible was the availability of conductive inks that are both suitable for the process and cost effective to produce. Our Sicrys™ inks are the response to this gap in the market. These single-crystal nanometric conductive inks enable the mass production of digital inkjet printing.  The inks also allow for narrower conductive patterns, which not only increase cost effectiveness in that less silver is required but also increase the cell’s active area and decrease shading. Such an advancement increases efficiency by up to a percentage point when comparing to traditional screen-printed conductive inks. In addition to silver inks, we produce these inks in copper – a more economical metal than silver – decreasing costs even further.

COP21 left industry experts exploring ways to achieve the goals set by our world leaders. Banding together and bringing our collective efforts to the conversation to increase the widespread adoption of clean energy is critical. Technologies to decrease solar hard costs and increase efficiencies will be critical in the long-term implementation of renewable energy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

PV Nano Cell wins IDTechEx award

PV Nano Cell, an innovative nanometric conductive digital inks producer has won the IDTechEx award for best development in materials for 3D Printing. The award was presented at IDTechEx Printed Electronics USA 2015, the world’s biggest event focused on the commercialization of printed, organic and flexible electronics. PV Nano Cell was recognized for its SicrysTM portfolio of single-crystal, nanometric, metal-based conductive inks that have been uniquely developed to enable the mass production of digitally printed electronics, which is critical to the growth of the industry.

“We are honoured to receive this award from such an influential, high-profile organization, being recognized for the hard work that our team pours into developing our unique inks,” said Fernando de la Vega, Ph.D., founder and CEO of PV Nano Cell. “In order for the printed electronics industry to grow as anticipated, cost-efficient inks that enable mass production digital inkjet printing are necessary. We work with manufacturers of printed electronics including printed circuit boards, antennas and others to enable significant technological advancements.”

With Sicrys™ inks, printed electronics and 3D printed electronics can be made with less material and increased efficiency, reducing costs and increasing design flexibility. For example, the multiple antennas found in cell phones today can be printed directly onto the phone case using Sicrys™ conductive inks, reducing the size, weight and parts necessary to produce cell phones. SicrysTM inks allow for printing on flexible substrates, such as plastic, fabric or even paper.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Conductive Ink Technology Revolutionizing the Photovoltaic Industry

Our Sicrys™ conductive inks were designed to accelerate the adoption of solar photovolatics by achieving significant cost reductions in the production of silicon solar cells through inkjet printing.

Cumulative operating PV capacity in the U.S. is now over 15 GW and solar PV accounted for more than half of new electric generating capacity added in the first half of 2014 (SEIA). Still, solar comprises only a tiny fraction of electricity generation in the U.S. Although the cost has declined dramatically, it will have to come down more if solar is ever to make up a significant share of the U.S. energy supply. In addition to the high cost of printing materials, the majority of solar PV panels use crystalline silicon; therefore, improvements in crystalline silicon cell production technologies can speed adoption by further driving down costs (silicon accounts for 75 percent of the total cost of solar cell production).

Sicrys™ single-crystal nanometric silver conductive ink promises to revolutionize the solar cell production process by enabling potential cost reductions of up to 10 to 20 percent $/W wise. Specifically, our silver conductive ink enables non-contact digital inkjet printing rather than traditional screen (or stencil) printing, which cuts down on breakage and will allow for thinner solar cells to be made, thus reducing manufacturing costs even further. Sicrys™ inks also enable narrower conductive patterns, increasing efficiency by increasing the cell’s active area and decreasing shading.

We have also developed the world’s first copper nanometric conductive ink, which delivers the outstanding properties of our Sicrys™ silver ink with even greater cost efficiency (based on significantly cheaper metal: $510/kg for silver versus $8/kg for copper). Though copper is far more cost efficient, ink manufacturers have struggled with oxidation. We have overcome that hurdle in the development of our copper inks which are very stable to oxidation. Copper inkjet printing replaces the expensive multi step processes used for masking and plating.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mass Production of Printed Electronics Made Possible With Conductive Digital Inkjet Technology

Our Sicrys™ nanometric conductive inks are currently being used to accelerate the adoption of printed electronics in mass production applications.  With the advancement of printed electronics, intelligence can be brought to virtually any object by enabling the use of fast, inexpensive inkjet printing technologies that can be used on flexible substrates such as plastic, fabric or even paper, as well as enabling 2.5-D and 3-D printed electronics.

With 3-D printing, the electronics can be embedded within the structural material, which promises to revolutionize the electronics industry by allowing for smaller, lighter, more efficient and more customized products.

The two major applications of SicrysTM conductive inks currently in development are:
  • Antennas 
Manufacturing and assembling antennas is a costly and time-consuming process that adds considerably to the cost of such products. The use of digital printing technologies with conductive inks can save on costs by reducing capital requirements for machinery and tooling, reducing assembly costs, reducing material costs, shrinking supply chain requirements and enabling faster production. Our inks can make it easier to modify design, reduce weight and size, and enhance connectivity. We are working with several manufacturers to develop printed antenna prototypes using digital printing technologies; preliminary results show that costs can be reduced by as much as half.
  • Printed Circuit Boards 
Many electronic devices are created using analog processes, such as screen printing and photolithography. One such example of this is printed circuit boards. We recently entered into an MOU with a top-tier printed circuit board manufacturer to bring the industry the first ever commercial mass production of printed circuit boards using a digital conductive inkjet printing process. Our Sicrys™ inks not only reduce the overall amount of hazardous waste generated in the production of printed circuit boards, but they also transform the analog production process into a digital process, reducing costs and time to market.