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Brief Published: 10 Mar 2015

Printable Touchscreens


Scientists at Saarland University in Germany have developed a platform that could allow anyone to print their own flexible touchscreens.

PrintScreen allows anyone with an inkjet printer to print custom touchscreen displays onto paper or prefabricated display film using conductive ink. Displays can also be screen printed onto a variety of materials including metal, leather, stone and wood.

Graphics software such as Adobe Illustrator is used to create the display's initial 2D design, which is then converted into four layers that together form the touchscreen. Each layer is printed in succession before a layer of acrylic insulating spray is applied as a topcoat.

The researchers say the technique could be useful for creating prototypes of devices such as interactive watchstraps or postcards. "So far, nothing like this has been possible," says Simon Olberding, a researcher on the project. "Displays were produced for the masses, never for one individual user."

From draw-on sensors to temporary digital tattoos, there is a growing demand for subtle, pliable wearables that mould to our bodies. Commercial device makers are beginning to respond; at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show, US health tech firm FitLinxx launched its AmpStrip monitor – a lightweight, waterproof patch that tracks heart rate, activity, respiration, body temperature and posture data.

For more, see CES 2015: Personal Electronics, Subtle Sensory Design and Beyond Wearables, part of our Post-Digital Macro Trend.