RFID tags printed on can by Nano Dimension
Conductive inks are instrumental in the development of modern electronics, as they enable a simpler, cleaner and more cost-effective way to lay down conductive traces. Emerging applications for conductive inks include RFID tags, 3D antennas, glucose sensors, and automative occupancy detection- just to name a few. The growing list of use cases has analyst predicting that the conductive inks market will reach nearly $4 billion by 2021.
Not all conductive metal inks are the same, and the differences are important to understand when it comes to their intended use. In this blog we'll discuss the merits of silver nano particles, one of the most mature and effective types of conductive ink. Numerous factors contribute to the usefulness of silver nanoparticles inks:
Conductivity value – Silver nanoparticles are typically the best-performing conductor for inkjet deposition, with some formulations achieving up to 70% of bulk silver conductivity. Silver nanoparticles achieve this high conductivity after undergoing a particle sintering process. Due to the tiny nanometer-range size of these particles the prints achieve very high density, when they fuse, the conductivity is significantly higher than any screen print paste using much larger particles. In addition, each ink has its own recommended approach which is critical in determining the conductivity of the inks.
Substrate variety – Silver nanoparticle ink suppliers must have the R&D tools to adapt to the needs of different applications and different substrates. This could start from the nanoparticle development through to the ink development, as well as having a good knowledge of the industrial inkjet printer application. This allows the developed ink to perform effectively on a variety of substrates, including ceramics, glass, metals, polycarbonate and PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), and many more.
Silver nanoparticle ink on Aluminium printed by Nano Dimension.
Abrasion resistance – Inks should undergo standard adhesion testing to determine their abrasion resistance. Silver nanoparticle ink formulations must have the ability to pass the “tape test,” with results varying based on the printing process and substrate. This is critical in many printed electronic applications, where the printed substrate must be handled, soldered, and fixed into another assembly.
Waterproof – Techniques during the printing process, such as fast sintering, make silver nanoparticle inks completely resistant to water. This is particularly important in applications such as sensors operating in a very humid environment.
Pretreatment – No pretreatment of the substrates is required for silver nanoparticle inks, saving valuable time and money in the printing process. On extremely challenging smooth surfaces, there may be the need for an easy-to-print primer material that should be deposited in an integrated process.
Cost – It's important to take a long view of the overall project – not just the inks – when considering the true cost. The extremely high conductivity of silver means less ink is required and smaller and lower profiles can be printed, both of which provide significant cost savings.
These are just some of the considerations that should be explored before choosing a conductive ink, since not all conductive inks are created equal. For more information, please visit the conductive inks section of our website.