Thin Film Electronics ASA (“Thinfilm”) has 15 years of experience in the field of non-volatile memories using functional polymers. Thinfilm’s unique all-printed re-writable products are ideal for use in standalone consumer applications, including personalized toys and online-enabled games. They can also be integrated with logic elements, sensors, batteries, and displays for mass market applications such as all-printed RFID tags. The proven high volume roll-to-roll production of Thinfilm printed memories provides the platform for its Memory Everywhere™ vision.
Thinfilm has previously announced technology partnerships to develop an inexpensive, integrated time-temperature sensor for use in monitoring perishable goods and pharmaceuticals.
Thinfilm and Bemis Company Inc. (Bemis), a Fortune 500 supplier of flexible packaging and pressure sensitive materials, announced an agreement to develop a flexible sensing platform for the packaging market. The result will be a new category of packaging that can collect and wirelessly communicate sensor information, for use by leading food, consumer products, and healthcare companies worldwide.
The flexible packaging market for North America alone is estimated by PCI Films Consulting Ltd. to be $18.3 Billion. Printed Electronics is a new, emerging industry that takes advantage of printing technologies to manufacture electronics with a wider variety of form factors, including thin, flexible substrates. Through the use of proprietary printing techniques, these electronic circuits can be manufactured at high efficiency and very high volumes as compared to traditional electronics. This enables electronic functionality in a whole new family of products such as medical and consumer disposables, cards, labels, RFID tags, toys and games. The independent research and analyst firm IDTechEx, estimate that the overall market for printed and potentially printed electronics will rise from $2 billion in 2009 to over $50 billion by 2019.
Technology Review – Thinfilm is putting printed wireless transmitters together with existing printed logic, memory, sensor, and battery systems on product packaging. This will be commercialized in 2014 with Bemis. Bemis, a Wisconsin packaging company, makes 200 billion packages a year for meat, cheese, medical devices, and personal care products.
Thinfilm Technology – Overview
Thinfilm’s technology is based on using a ferroelectric polymer as the functional memory material sandwiched between two sets of electrodes in a passive matrix – each crossing of metal lines defines a memory cell.
The memory function is based on an intrinsic mechanism related to orientation of the polymer chains. The polymer chains can be oriented in two different ways representing “0” and “1”. Each state is stable without application of an external field which means that information in the memory will not be lost when the power is turned off. This is referred to as a non-volatile memory. The intrinsic character of the polymer means that the technology is extremely scalable. Thinfilm has demonstrated 110 nm cells and shown that no lower limits could be found. An additional important characteristic of the technology is that it is based on non-toxic materials. This is very important in realizing our Memory EverywhereTM vision
The Thinfilm-patented passive matrix is the “Holy grail” of memory architectures that dispenses with the need of active circuitry within the memory cell. This enables ultimate packing for high density memories as well as the possibility to stack memory layers on top of each other. The passive array memory architecture allows the memory portion to be separate from the read/write electronics enabling stand alone application without integration with printed logic.
The core of Thinfilms know-how and patent portfolio relates to processing and design of memories and pulse protocols for practical application of passive matrix architectures. The main challenge in a passive matrix is related to reading and writing data of any given cell without destroying/disturbing data stored in neighboring cells.