Printed Electrochromics boldly goes where no display has gone before

This is a sponsored post by Ynvisible

Example use-case for printed electrochromics, Ynvisible
Fig.1 Example use case for printed electrochromics: a shock detector smart label with an interactive printed interface.

Expanding Need for Simple Electronic Display Functionality

Rapid advances in the miniaturization and reduction of costs in computing, electronic sensing, and communications have allowed the integration of “smart” electronic functionality into almost everything. ”Intelligence” is now embedded into a wide range of everyday objects, and spread throughout our working and living environments. Much of this intelligence, data collection and transfer is hidden from the human senses, requiring little or no human involvement. But as the number of human daily touch points and interactions with smart devices grows, so too does the importance of user experience design and the role of displays.

Conventional electronic displays cannot be economically and sustainably applied into all smart objects and environments and can often times be functionality overkill for the simple display requirements of many everyday objects. Also, user experiences built around the need for extensive use of separate reading devices, e.g. RFID or Bluetooth readers in smart phones, can be increasingly challenging especially with the high number of distractions and strong competition for attention on mobile screens. Further with a doubling of screen time over the past four years among certain user demographics, there is also a growing sense of screen fatigue leading to people “detoxing” from light emitting screens while still valuing user interfaces that are useful yet unobtrusive.

"As technology becomes ubiquitous, it also becomes invisible.“
- Kevin Kelly, Wired magazine Founding Executive Editor

When technology becomes ubiquitous, it needs to seamlessly blend into the product and our surroundings. The user experience should be effortless. As the “computing” or intelligence blends into smart objects and environments, also the displays need to become more practical: i) eliminating the need for recharging or replacing of batteries, ii) eliminating the amount of effort to access information, and iii) be inexpensive for intended purpose.

Printed Electrochromics Brings Everyday Printable Objects and Surfaces to Life

Electrochromic devices (ECD) are electrochemical cells where color changes occur upon electrochemical reactions of two or more redox active electrochromic materials electrically connected by an external circuit and physically separated by an ionic conducting layer (electrolyte layer). Electrochromic materials and devices can be controlled to change their color and opacity by the application of electrical stimuli. ECDs are a non-light emitting reflective technology. Materials for ECD manufacture can be taken into the form of printable inks and the manufacturing processes made compatible with standard graphic printing and converting processes. The resulting device can be made thin, flexible, transparent, robust, and ultra low-power. As ECDs can be produced into a wide range of different shapes and sizes, they offer a wide range of advantages for product design and integration.

Ynvisible R2R production line at Linkoping, SwedenFig.2 Electrochromic devices can be printed in sheet-to-sheet or roll-to-roll.
Ynvisible Production R2R line in Linköping, Sweden.

R&D toward printed electrochromics began in the 1990s. In recent years, with strong advances in printed electronic and hybrid electronic systems, developments of ECDs have made strong technical progress into mass-manufacturability. Electrochromic displays and visual indicators are now entering markets that are considered “blue ocean” from the perspective of the electronic display industry. In these market spaces conventional printed products and surfaces now meet electronics. The over 800 billion USD per year printing industry, and particularly the industrial printing sub-sector, are welcoming printed electronic systems with high level of interest.

Things Alive

Today Ynvisible Interactive Inc. (“Ynvisible”) is leading the charge to bring printed electrochromics into market. Ynvisible was established with the vision to bring everyday objects and surfaces to life benefitting people in a smart and connected world. The company’s mission is to provide practical human interfaces to smart everyday objects and ambient intelligence.
After early explorations into different chromogenic systems the company focused on developing electrochromics into a mass producible, ultra-low power consuming visual interface technology. The company now develops and commercializes different printed electrochromic systems on film materials. By combining other printed electronic components and microelectronics into the electrochromic system, the company designs and produces interactive graphic solutions for everyday smart objects and surfaces.

Ynvisible aims to be the leading supplier of design tools, inks and quality control systems for the design and production of interactive printed graphics based on printed electrochromics and other printed electronics technologies. The company is building its technology and products platform under the ynvisibleâ„¢ brand (ynvisible is a registered trademark in certain countries and territories).

Temperature label electrochromic displays, Ynvisible

Fig. 3 Electrochromic displays on a temperature label provide clear visual indication and are
easy to implement - user friendly and available in high volumes.

Ynvisible’s primary focus is on applications in retail and logistics (where ECDs are printed onto RFID tags and RF-based smart labels), premium consumer brand products, and healthcare and wellness (in particular medical and diagnostic devices). Today the company offers a full services package to help product developers and designers get started with printed electrochromics. Ynvisible’s design, prototyping, customer training and sheet-to-sheet production services are based in Almada, Portugal. The company’s inks development and R&D services are based in Freiburg, Germany. In Linköping, Sweden the company operates a roll-to-roll production facility with extensive printing, converting, and quality control system capabilities. In addition to high volume ECD printing, the high capacity production line is utilized for printing of other printed electronic components and systems. Ynvisible sells printed electronics production upscaling services to other product owning companies.

Ynvisible Interactive Inc. is a publicly traded company, listed in the Toronto Stock Exchange Venture list [TSXV:YNV], the OTC Markets [OTCQB:YNVYF] and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange [FRA:1XNA]

Getting Started With Printed Electrochromics

To learn more about Printed Electrochromics, Ynvisible is hosting a free webinar on Apr 2, 2020 12:00-1:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada). The one hour webinar includes speakers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, NXN-IP and the University of Lapland. To register see:

Printed paper label - with NFC antenna and a printed electrochromic display, Ynvisible

Fig.4 Printed paper label with printed NFC antenna and printed electrochromic display on the same substrate.
A collaboration between Arjowiggins and Ynvisible.

Posted: Apr 01,2020 by Ron Mertens