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Lamp tech could lead to creation of illuminated books

12 Feb 2014  | Paul Buckley

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Austrian company Prelonic Technologies is using electroluminescence technology in an aim to develop a printing equipment that produces light effects on paper and cardboard. The experimental technique could lead to a more affordable approach to mass screen printing, as well as new designs for published materials and other paper products.

Prelonic founder Dr. Friedrich Eibensteiner is well advanced in the development of the electroluminescent lamps (EL) technology to enable the printing of 'light-effects' directly onto paper and cardboard via conventional printing processes working in a normal printing environment. The result could include flashing lights on packaging, illuminated magazine covers and books with 'highlighted' areas.

Eibensteiner admits there are still some critical technological barriers that need to be overcome. "It is not the printed lamp – that is an old and mature technology—it is the driver and the integration, which are really challenging," he explained. "Most of the parts are already printed and fully integrated. The lamp, connectivity, switch and battery are printed directly to the paper or cardboard. But with the driver, we are only half the way there. Most parts of the driver are already printed. However, some are still under development. And we are working on miniaturisation, because at the moment, the area is more than an A5 sheet of paper. In the end it will come down to a fully printed driver and few square centimetres."

Dr. Eibensteiner believes electroluminescence still seems to be the only light technology which can be printable and will be available in the next years with reasonable effort. Although LEDs are available Dr. Eibensteiner points out that they are not printable and they still require pick place processes. LEDs also only produce small light spots – even if they are robust and bright. OLEDs offer area lighting, but are not suitable for the printing applications for a number of reasons including the need for clean room processes, encapsulation and high costs.

Full development and roll-out of EL printing on paper will take some time, admits Dr. Eibensteiner. However, he reckons that a cost efficient technology for lights on magazines, books and packaging will be available soon.

Prelonic expects that the first EL printing applications will be hybrid ones because the driver is still not fully developed. But prelonic has realised a solution that now enables printing by using most of the driver components which can be completed with few simple conventional printing functionalities.

The hybrid approach could enable conventional screen printing in a normal paper and cardboard environment to be achievable, which is a pre-condition for low-cost mass production.

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