IWFPE 2012: Flexible & Printable Electronics – It’s Time to Print!
MUJU, KOREA – “No technology seems to be more familiar to mankind than printing technology,” said Jin-koog Shin, director of Korea Printed Electronics Center. Even before Gutenberg introduced printing to Europe, mankind is believed to have started making paper from papyrus as early as 4000 BC during the Mesopotamian civilization. For thousands of years, people have accumulated expertise in increasing the efficiency of printing technology by providing lower costs and simpler methods. Printing technology has continuously evolved from using woodblock, clay, metal, ultimately originating printed electronics, which combines the historical merits of printing technology with the emergence of digital technology. Printed electronics is a set of printing methods used to create electrical devices on various substrates.
“I believe that printed electronics technology has enormous growth potential and applicability to diverse industries. Previous manufacturing processes for semiconductor and display devices had shortcomings in manufacturing costs and environmental perspectives as repeated exposure and development processes involved lots of materials loss and wastewater generation. However, printed electronics that draw a desired circuit with simple step, like in the printing process, not only eliminates a number of steps, but minimizes energy consumption and industrial waste generation,” he added. Through R2R processes utilizing flexible plastic substrate, printed electronics technology allows mass production with 90% cost reduction. The technology can be applied to diverse manufacturing sectors including Bio, semiconductor, display, electronic components and energy industry.
Dr. Shin saw the potential of printed electronics and had confidence in the future of the industry back in 2004. Back then, not many people paid attention to this technology in Korea, and he became an advocate of printed electronics. In 2006, he created a relevant workshop which later on officially became the International Workshop on Flexible & Printable Electronics(IWFPE), the world’s largest gathering of academics and business specialists in printable and flexible electronics areas. This year, the fourth workshop is planned to be held on November 14~16 at Muju Resort in Jeollabuk-do, Korea under the slogan of “It’s time to print!”
“The initial idea of creating IWFPE was to gather all the technologies and specialists relevant to printed electronics in one location. Experts in a single area cannot make printed electronics possible. Diverse technologies such as mechanical, electronic, material and chemical engineering need to converge. Engineers have a tendency to socialize with people in their own areas rather than mingling with people in other sectors. The best idea on how to gather diverse experts was to bring them to one place. On top of technology convergence, collaboration of nations was also deemed vital as each country also has its own competitive technology which printed electronics requires. For instance, Japan has a competitive edge in materials part while Korea is better known for keen ability in manufacturing. This workshop can be a good venue to help both nations attain complementary relations, thus increasing efficiency,” Dr. Shin said.
Korean’s ‘printing DNA’ and advancement of printing technology of Jeolla region
It is difficult to doubt Korea as a leading nation in the display sector. However, is Korea also as esteemed in the printed electronics sector? “I can confidently say that Koreans have ‘printing DNA’. When you review Korean printing history such as metal type or Tripitaka Koreana, you will easily notice that,” he explained. As early as 1230, Koreans invented a metal type movable printing bronze. The Jikji, published in 1377, is the earliest known metal printed book. It was brought to use 220 years prior to Johannes Gutenberg’s introduction of the first modern movable type system in Europe around 1450. Tripitaka Koreana, made in 1251, is the world’s most comprehensive and oldest intact version of Buddhist canon with no known errors in over 6568 volumes.
Then why was Jeolla exclusively selected out of many regions in Korea? He explained. Before the Imjin war, Japan’s sixteenth-century invasion of Korea, broke out, Korea had four national libraries which housed its historical records. However, during the war, three libraries were burned and only the library located in Jeolla was preserved. Following the war, as all the remaining historical records had to be copied, it naturally led to the development of printing technology. Besides, the area of Jeonju in the Jeolla region was known as the residence of people with the surname Lee, the royal family of the Korean Lee dynasty. They received great support from the king to boost the economy in a wide range of sectors, particularly printing and paper manufacturing. Jeolla also possesses fertile plains that provide an abundant area to farm a high yield of rice. A plentiful supply of food led to an affluent life, which naturally developed culture as well as the printing industry.
Korea Printed Electronics Center
A local branch of Korea Electronics Technology Institute (KETI), an affiliated research organization of Ministry of Knowledge Economy, is also located in the Jeollabuk-do region. KETI was established with the goal of leading the development of high technology and invigorating technology innovation of SMEs. Dr. Shin has been working for KETI for over 10 years, and serving as a director of Korea Printed Electronics Center(KPEC) since 2006. KPEC is the only national initiative focusing printed electronics specifically designated to support the development of processes and equipment. Their aim is to promote high volume and low-cost production process which utilizes industrial printers in order to fabricate electric and electronic components. The center is best known for construction of Gen. 5 OLED lighting equipment. OLED lighting can be flexible in design, environmentally-friendly, and requires less overhead. When compared to LED, it can amass over 50% differential in energy savings.
“IWFPE, which initially started with 300 participants in 2009 has now evolved into a global workshop with over 1,800 participants and 50 speakers. The participation of Professor Jin Jang, a well-known scholar in the display sector immensely improved the prestige of the workshop. Several global leaders were invited as keynote speakers in the past three workshops including Michael Heckmeier of Merck Chemicals, David C. Morton of US Army Research Laboratory, and Karl Leo of IAPP-TU Dresden. I believe IWFPE 2012 will again be a useful venue where participants can build social networks with diverse professionals and also learn about the latest trends and gather information about the advancement in the field from a wide range of technical aspect.”