New print technology turns paper into interactive packaging

Researchers from Purdue University in Indiana, USA hope their new technology can help transform paper sheets from a notebook into a music player interface or make food packaging interactive. The university’s engineers have developed a simple printing process that renders any paper or cardboard packaging into a keyboard, keypad or other easy-to-use human-machine interfaces. This technology was published in the Aug. 23 edition of Nano Energy.

“This is the first time a self-powered paper-based electronic device is demonstrated,” said Ramses Martinez, an assistant professor in Purdue’s School of Industrial Engineering and in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering. “We developed a method to render paper repellent to water, oil and dust by coating it with highly fluorinated molecules. This omniphobic coating allows us to print multiple layers of circuits onto paper without getting the ink to smear from one layer to the next one.”

Martinez said this innovation facilitates the fabrication of vertical pressure sensors that do not require any external battery, since they harvest the energy from their contact with the user. The technology is compatible with conventional large-scale printing processes and could easily be implemented to rapidly convert conventional cardboard packaging or paper into smart packaging or a smart human-machine interface, he claims.

“I envision this technology can facilitate the user interaction with food packaging, to verify if the food is safe to be consumed, or enabling users to sign the package that arrives at home by dragging their finger over the box to properly identify themselves as the owner of the package,” Martinez said.

He and his team have worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent some of his technologies related to robots and other design innovations. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at otcip@prf.org.

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