Printed electronics adds Bluetooth to paper and plastic

27 November 2013

A patented printed electronics process could support wafer-thin $10 Bluetooth low energy keyboards made out of paper, card, and plastic.

UK start-up, Novalia, has developed the low-cost, patented manufacturing technology using standard print processes - such as screen print, flexography, and offset lithography - combined with capacitive touch technology, using the nRF51822 SoC from Nordic Semiconductor.
The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) January 2014, the company will demonstrate a QWERTY keyboard, printed with conductive ink on a UK A4-sized photo paper that weighs just 30g (not including batteries). A 120x25mm) control module with battery (two CR2016 watch batteries) and electronics housing is just 2mm deep, while the keyboard area, can be as thin as 50µm (0.005mm), says the company, or about 10x thinner than any other keyboard and one which can be printed at 100m/minute on a standard print press.
The keyboard keys are printed on a regular sheet of 70gsm A4-sized paper layered upon a 20x8, X-Y touch matrix substrate printed on the photo paper that can be re-configured in software to represent any language or developer-assigned functionality. The SoC’s on-board 32bit ARM Cortex M0- based processor manages the capacitive touch side of the application, while the SoC's class-leading ultra low power performance supports a battery life of up to 18months (nine months for a single CR2032).
A simpler version of this keyboard has already been developed by the company. The Switchboard comprises eight capacitive touch buttons printed onto a lightweight (28g including a single CR2032 battery) piece of UK A5-sized printed paper mounted on foam card that can be configured to control (or be controlled by) apps running on any Bluetooth v4.0 enabled iOS device.

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