Printed microprocessors could be the technology breakthrough needed to bring computing power to a host of everyday objects and labels.
A Silicon Valley company, Kovia, has pioneered a way of using silicon-based inks to print integrated circuits, sensors and displays. This technology could replace costly chips on inexpensive devices or labels.
The attributes of graphics printing enable Kovio to fabricate integrated circuits at a fraction of the cost of conventional silicon technology.
More importantly, says the company, this new platform technology overcomes the inherent limitations of conventional silicon technology such as large capital expenditure, significant working capital and inventory, long and high-cost development and manufacturing lead times, and the need for large volumes.
Finally, the use of digital printing technology facilitates a high level of product customization and rapid time to market.
"The inherent advantage of the Kovio printed silicon technology platform over alternatives like organic electronics is that printed silicon enables significantly higher performance, lower power consumption and environmental stability," says the company.
"Furthermore, printed silicon electronics leverages a 50-year knowledge base and ecosystem, including design, fabrication, packaging, testing and infrastructure."
The secret to the printing is in the ink and the printing process, which layers silicon ink with a solvent made of nanoparticle powder.
The company's first product is a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, with the chip printed on it. Traditional RFID tags enclose a silicon chip and cost about 10 cents (US) each to produce. Kovia is hoping its technology will bring the price down to one-tenth of its current level.