Inkjet printing of functional materials

Highly individualized integration of functions

Inkjet printing of functional materials is a resource-saving digital structuring process which can be used to apply a wide range of different materials locally and contactless. Metals, polymers, and ceramics transferred into low viscous inks can thus be applied to any surface. The combination of different materials enables the production of numerous structures such as electrical conductors and sensory surfaces, as well as more complex components such as actuators, organic LEDs, organic solar cells, and much more.

The inkjet printing process mostly takes place in a normal atmosphere and at low process temperatures. This makes the entire process very cost-effective. It is also particularly suitable for the production of single components and rapid prototyping due to the high potential to customize the individual printed structures. Scaling up to high volumes is easily possible due to the digital design.

At Fraunhofer IOF, the entire process chain is investigated and developed, ranging from the pre-treatment of the substrates and the development of the printing process, to the targeted post-treatment of the printed structures. Our many years of experience lead to a targeted parameter optimization of the entire printing process.

Our range of services

We realize tailor-made solutions for our customers with the development of individual processes and process chains. Our range of services includes the selection of suitable materials and the development of inks, the development of targeted substrate preparation processes, the development of printing processes for the various materials and inks, and the targeted post-treatment of printed structures. In addition, extensive optical, electrical, and mechanical characterization of the printed structures is carried out at the customer's request.

Markets and applications for inkjet printing

 

Inkjet printing of functional materials is relevant for many applications and especially for the production of small series and individualized products. At Fraunhofer IOF, applications are already being developed in the fields of medical technology, life sciences, the automotive industry, multimedia technology, and the semiconductor industry. Inkjet printing enables flexible solutions for the challenges of our customers.

In numerous projects at Fraunhofer IOF, functions for use in microfluidic chips and for the development of a lab-on-a-chip for near-patient diagnostics have been developed and tested in practical use. The fully printed functionalities include:

  • Transparent heating structures
  • Electrodes for electrophoresis
  • Fluorescence detectors (OLEDs, photodiodes)
  • Optically active surfaces (mirrors, optical filters)
  • Micropumps
  • Various sensor surfaces
  • Digital microfluidics
Inkjet-printed functionalities for flexible and cost-effective “lab-on-a-chip” systems.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Inkjet-printed functionalities for flexible and cost-effective “lab-on-a-chip” systems.
Printed functionalities on a flexible polymer film for covering microfluidic chips.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Printed functionalities on a flexible polymer film for covering microfluidic chips.
Inkjet-printed front-side metallization on a solar cell.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Inkjet-printed front-side metallization on a solar cell.

Your advantages of working with us

 

We develop highly customized 2D structures on various materials using inkjet printing technology.

The combination of our experience and passion for challenging technological boundaries enables us to develop exceptional, customized multilayer and multimaterial functionalities on a variety of substrates.

Our range of printable materials and applications

  • Silver / Gold / Graphite
    • Resistive heaters
    • Wiring / Electrodes
    • Mirrors
    • Temperature sensors (thermocouples, resistance thermometers)
    • Digital microfluidics
  • PEDOT:PSS (Polymer: Replaces ITO)
    • Transparent electrodes
    • Transparent resisitive heaters
  • PVDF-TrFE-(CTFE) (piezoelectric)
    • Actuators (e.g., pumps)
    • Pressure sensors
  • Various functional polymers
    • OLEDs
    • Photodiodes
    • Light filters
Integrated functionalities (LEDs, baffles, printed silver mirrors) in inkjet-printed molded parts made of Ormocomp®.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Integrated functionalities (LEDs, baffles, printed silver mirrors) in inkjet-printed molded parts made of Ormocomp®.

The advantages of our printing technology at a glance

 

  • Cost-effective material application
  • Digital printing technology
    • Material savings
    • Easy design changes
    • Capability of rapid prototyping
  • Mask-free, contactless deposition
  • Deposition at normal atmosphere
  • Processing at room temperature
  • Compatible with substrates of glass, polymers, and paper

Technical equipment in the field of inkjet printing

  • For cleaning and activation of various substrates (glass, plastics, metal, ceramics, paper) we have a wet chemical cleaning line and plasma ovens.
  • For printing, we use commercial inkjet printers in desktop format.
  • The use of laminar flow box modules enables almost particle-free printing results.
  • Inks that require an inert atmosphere are printed in a nitrogen atmosphere with the exclusion of oxygen and water.
  • The use of different industrial print heads from renowned manufacturers enables us to use a wide range of inks in a large viscosity range.
  • Heatable substrate tables lead to an optimized printing result.
  • UV lamps with different wavelengths allow curing of UV-crosslinking materials.
  • For post-treatment we use heating and plasma ovens as well as vacuum chambers to achieve the desired properties.
Modified printer system for printing functional optical components.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Modified printer system for printing functional optical components.

Our research strength

 

Articles of the annual report

The articles in the annual report show, among other things, the research strength of our experts at Fraunhofer IOF. Every year, selected research results from the previous year (archive annual reports) are published in the annual report. You can find the articles on the developments of inkjet printing from the past years in the following list:

 

Excellent scientific publications

A large number of scientific results are published by our researchers in scientific journals. A list of scientific papers on functional materials printing can be found below:

Selection of scientific publications

Drops on the way to analysis. We realize the functionality of a biochemical laboratory on the size of a chip card.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Drops on the way to analysis. We realize the functionality of a biochemical laboratory on the size of a chip card.

Everything important at a glance

 

Find the important information summarized in our handy data sheet on the subject of printing functional materials.

More questions?

 

Please ask us. We are happy to help you.

If you have any questions about collaborating with Fraunhofer IOF, you can find more information by clicking on the following link:

 

Have we sparked your interest?

 

Please contact us.

We develop customized solutions for photonic problems from industry and science.

Further information

3D printed optics

In the field of 3D printing of optical systems we develop highly individual feature integrations on various materials using inkjet printing technology.

3D inkjet printing of optical elements

Opto-mechatronical components and systems

Get an overview of the entire range of services offered by our scientific department “Opto-mechatronical Components and Systems” at Fraunhofer IOF.

Overview

Additive Manufacturing of metal optics

At Fraunhofer IOF, technologies are being developed for the additive manufacturing of high-performance metallic components using selective laser melting.

Additive Manufacturing of metal optics