Demonstrating the Power of Large-Area Electronics

The EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Large-Area Electronics has just completed a joint project with students from Central Saint Martins (CSM), University of the Arts London, to demonstrate the power and flexibility of Large-Area Electronics (LAE) in a range of applications. The project is part of a plan to produce interactive demonstrators, illustrating the capabilities of LAE technologies to potential customers, end-users, product designers and the public.

The three month design project was co-ordinated by the EPSRC Centre with technology examples provided by six industrial partners (Cambridge Display Technology, CIT, FlexEnable, M-SOLV, PragmatIC Printing, Printed Electronics) and the Centre for Process Innovation, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. Under the leadership of Paul De’Ath, Stage 2 Leader, second-year BA (Hons) Product Design students were tasked to incorporate in their design ideas numerous functional LAE elements – e.g. sensors, displays, energy harvesting, energy storage and lighting – brought together in an attractive and compelling way to illustrate functional capability and new modes of use.

Hanako Zhang, designer, was excited to work with the new technologies, “When we were all briefed on this project and took the technology in our hands, I remember we were all amazed not only in its functionality, but also in its lightness and beauty. So it was exciting to think about how this technology can tie together with design to create a new kind of aesthetic.” Hanako adds that the LAE technology “has endless possibilities to change people’s lives by simplifying things: what used to take more space or more time could be minimised drastically — and working with something like that made it a valuable learning experience.”

48 students participated in the competition, each coming up with their own concept that was presented to the EPSRC Centre and participating industrial partners at the end of March 2015. The projects were judged on the following criteria: a) design innovation b) how well the LAE elements were presented, and c) commercial potential/application.

“This project opened a new door for me,” reflects Qian Han, design student. “The [EPSRC Centre staff and industry partners] were very supportive. They helped me to understand how the technology works and what are the available and better [material] choices that I can use for my design. So now I am feeling more confident as a product designer.”

Videos showcasing the designs of the four chosen finalist, including the winning design are presented below.

“The waiting ticket” by Hanako Zhang – Winner of the LAE demonstrator design competition

The ticket is a flexible wrist band incorporating a display and communications to keep a customer informed of the timing of an appointment. The concept could be used in a range of situations, for example to allow patients waiting in a hospital or clinic to be given updates on timing of their appointment without having to remain in the reception area. The wristband showcases technologies including flexible display, printed circuits, rechargeable and flexible batteries, and other technologies such as printed touch sensors and OLEDs could also be included.

“The interactive book” by Kai Lawrence – Finalist

The interactive book concept communicates information through different graphic examples of printed electronics, each of which forms a page of the book, with the technology embedded into the pages. A haptic interaction on each page allows the user to learn through doing. The book’s pages embrace the flexible nature of the technology, and its beauty is emphasised through clear and organised presentation. Each page is connected to a power source embedded in the spine using terminal rings.

“Smart step” by Qian Han – Finalist

The smart insoles concept includes built-in printed pressure sensors and a gyroscope system, which connect to an app on a phone via Bluetooth. This allows a user to track movement for sports, dance or game applications. The sensors and circuits are made of flexible printed technologies which enable the insole to be ultra thin & lightweight.

“Nerve” by Tracy Hernandez – Finalist

“Nerve” is a portable electronic massager using TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) to provide pain relief through a flexible pad that can mould to the body. The design uses a printed battery, printed antenna and circuitry, and an OLED indicator.

What's next?

The EPSRC Centre plans to work with the technology providers and a product design company to make a prototype demonstrator before producing a small number of demonstrators systems. If your organisation is interested in owning a demonstrator, please contact the EPSRC Centre.

Contact us

For more information about the demonstrator project contact Dr Luigi Occhipinti, National Outreach Manager

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