Conductive Transfers(CT) has developed a fantastic new process to screen print circuits which are stretchable, washable and cost effective making it perfect for enabling new wearable solutions. The key innovation is that CT has eliminated the wires and plastic substrates found in today's wearables whilst retaining all of the advantages of printing on to a sheet of plastic. From the wearer's perspective the result is clothing with valuable new functionality that is just as comfortable to wear and yet will still survive numerous encounters with the washing machine.
CT's process uses screen printing to build up layers of ink including one or more conducting layers on to a coated plastic sheet called a transfer film. The conducting layers are encapsulated between two electrically insulating ink layers and may also be stretchable. An adhesive layer is added last and completes the conductive transfer which is then ready for heat pressing on to any surface including textiles. The final step is to peel off the transfer film leaving the ink stack bonded to the surface or textile.
Screen printing is often associated with t-shirts but there is much more to this widely used technology. With the right inks, screens and printer it is possible to achieve 30 μm track and gap which is comparable to that achieved by a typical Printed Circuit Board(PCB) manufacturer . State of the art screen printing lines such as the one at CT's factory near Sheffield, UK incorporate an optical alignment system to ensure good interlayer alignment and is capable of producing millions of circuits per year.
The nine benefits of CT's printed circuit technology are as follows:
Circuits can be as thin as human hair which is particularly important for maintaining the drapability of textiles.
Circuits are very light because the layers of ink are typically only a few microns thick.
The encapsulating ink is comfortable to touch.
Circuits are stretchable so that they can be added to garments made from stretchable textiles such as Lycra® without significantly altering the feel of the garment.
There is no substrate or wires which makes the circuit considerably more comfortable compared to competing circuits printed on to TPU plastic.
This is a truly wearable technology.
Circuits are machine washable and have been tested up to 60°C.
The technology is highly cost effective because screen printing is a mature, widely used and well supported technology.
Circuits can be produced in one region and shipped to another for heat pressing to the garment. The ecosystem challenges associated with conductive threads such as needing new equipment, new suppliers and reskilling workers are avoided.
CT is currently working closely with our lead customer to act as a circuit supplier for a completely new version of an existing product that will provide a step change in comfort and convenience to the wearer. CT's other customers are developing new products for the health, sportswear, consumer, industrial and automotive markets. CT expects that many of these customers will license our technology to enable mass production of their products. In this scenario CT has the expertise to support a full technology transfer as well as the partnerships to supply the necessary inks, consumables and equipment. Please get in touch to find out more.