Printed electronics refers to any electronic devices that are created by printing onto various materials. Generally, this includes the use of carbon-based compounds printed onto flexible materials like plastic films. There are a variety of substances that can serve as the base for these devices, which fall into the category of plastic film for printed electronics.
Since these materials are man-made and produced using chemical processes, they can display a huge array of specific characteristics. This makes them especially well suited for printed electronics and similar applications, since these require precision to operate as intended.
All this is to say that when choosing film for printed electronics, it’s important to understand the material options so you can choose the one that is the best fit for your specific applications. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common plastic film materials used in this industry, along with their attributes and specific applications.
Attributes of PBT, PET, & Polycarbonate Film
The first category for printed electronics film is PBT, otherwise known as Polybutylene Terephthalate. This is a crystalline polymer known for displaying a variety of beneficial properties. First up is its good dimensional stability, which allows it to remain in a specific shape and form even if exposed to pressure or other conditions that might change the shape or size of other materials. It also offers high heat and chemical resistance, which allow it to hold up to a variety of conditions. And it has a higher tensile strength than many other films, meaning it’s well suited to stand up to tension. Finally, it offers easy molding characteristics, meaning that film fabricators can easily form it into specific shapes without much hassle. This is a rare quality in thermoset plastics. But it can ultimately make the material more economical and easy to work with.
Then there’s PET, or Polyethylene Terephthalate. This type of film is a thermoplastic polymer. It can be either amorphous or crystalline, depending on how it is processed. This just means that it can be molded into a specific shape that’s dimensionally stable or it can be fairly flexible and shapeless. Some materials are even made to be a mixture of both. This makes it incredibly versatile and able to work in a variety of printed electronics and other applications.
Polycarbonate film is another thermoplastic material. However, this one is just amorphous, meaning it’s flexible and able to be bent and formed to fit various shapes or containers. This material is most notable for its strength and toughness. It’s significantly more impact resistant than glass or even acrylic. In fact, it’s virtually unbreakable when used in many different applications. This makes it ideal for printed electronics and other items that need to hold up to excessive wear or extreme conditions. If you’re worried about an item breaking under duress, polycarbonate is likely to withstand the impact.
Finally, there are high performance films. These are produced in order to meet higher requirements than those of other commonly available film materials. This includes greater temperature stability, which is well suited for printed electronics that may have to operate in conditions where excess heat is present. This option also displays optimal chemical resistance, perfect for applications where items may need to be sterilized or exposed to other chemical agents. And these materials are also known for displaying significantly better mechanical properties than other materials as well.
Applications of Plastic Film in Printed Electronics
Printed electronics encompass a huge array of devices and components. And the materials listed above can be used for tons of different specific items. We’ve listed just a few of the popular applications and their uses below.
One of the more common applications for printed electronics is integrated circuits. These can include components such as complementary inverters that change the direction of an electric current within a device.
Film for printed electronics can also be included in memory devices, like those used for storing documents or files. These are commonly used in computers, as well as smaller devices like smartphones and cameras.
Light-emitting diodes are semiconductors that illuminate when electricity flows to them. These are more commonly referred to as LED lighting sources. Printed materials can be used in the circuits of these systems.
Solar cells are electronic devices that convert light into photovoltaic energy. These are commonly used in PV solar panels, as well as solar lights and other appliances that run on this type of energy. Their components can also use printed electronics.
Finally, wearable electronic devices often make use of film for printed electronics. Since many of these materials are flexible, they’re especially well suited for items that need to fit on different wearers. But they still offer the ability to carry electric currents to specific circuits within a device. Basically, you get form and function in one.
If you’re looking for film for printed electronics, PolymerFilms can help. We offer all the materials listed above in a variety of gauges and sizes. Our in-house conversion capabilities allow clients to receive film products that are made to their exact specifications. And we have five distribution centers throughout North America to ensure fast and quality service. In addition to film for printed electronics, we also offer a variety of plastic film solutions for companies that produce displays, food and beverage containers, and even ID cards. If you’re ready to discuss your plastic film needs, just visit our website to request a free consultation today.