German print manufacturer Heidelberg has set up a dedicated business unit for the industrial development, manufacture, and sale of printed and organic electronics.
The company has also started production at its Wiesloch-Walldorf site, investing some €5 million in a complete production line for printed sensors.
Printed and organic electronics technology produces sensors based on conductive inks and functional materials. Integrated into wireless sensor nodes (sensors and their communication nodes), they are a cornerstone of applications in the areas of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things.
Sensors developed at Heidelberg’s InnovationLab (iL) are set to be printed first for use in dental technology.
According to Heidelberg, these printed sensors make it possible, for the first time ever, to digitally record the distribution of masticatory pressure during occlusion (when the upper and lower jaws come together).
3D visualisation on a tablet and data archiving enable malocclusions to be identified and subsequently corrected. Looking further ahead, Heidelberg is to use its printing technology at the campus to produce sensors for other digital applications – in particular in healthcare and logistics, and also in the retail and automotive sectors.
Heidelberg expects the new printing technology to ultimately expand its existing digital business models and above all, trigger the development of new, smart products.
“Embarking on the development and industrial production of printed and organic electronics represents a milestone for Heidelberg and for Germany as an industrial player. As we see it, our involvement in this production of high-tech sensors opens up the potential for growth in the two- to three-digit million-euro range,” Heidelberg CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer said.
The future industrial printing of organic electronics and the associated software/hardware development represents a first for the German mechanical engineering company and aims to use digitisation for success.
In operational terms, Heidelberg said the introduction of new sensor printing technology offers the company a whole host of development opportunities, printing sensors on an industrial scale in a cleanroom environment.
Heidelberg added that the initial focus is on cooperation agreements with startups and other companies from all over the world.
“InnovationLab scientists work with these businesses to develop new materials, processes, and functional products that they subsequently get ready for industrial-scale production in partnership with Heidelberg,” it said.
“Looking to secure a leading position in the digital future, Heidelberg is throwing open the door into the new world of digital technology and moving into completely new areas of business.”
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