The world of semiconductors, displays, computers, printers, cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), circuit boards, and many other electronic devices may soon experience a paradigm shift away from silicon chips, according to Glenn Sanders, VP of development at Rolltronics. The company has pioneered a new approach to electronics manufacturing by producing thin-film electronic devices on flexible substrates using roll-to-roll manufacturing techniques. "The first applications will probably involve flexible back planes for IT and PDA devices," says Sanders. Using roll-to-roll manufacturing, Rolltronics plans to work with private companies developing Internet devices, medical imaging equipment, electronic ID tags, electronic books and paper, and a variety of other "transformational" products. Other potential applications include logic, wireless, power, memory, and display components. The devices are constructed as a "sandwich" of five or six thin layers (such as the plastic used in overhead transparencies) laminated into a single unit. "We're still in the prototyping phase, but we expect to have test units in a year and small production quantities in 18 months," says Sanders. For more information, visit the Rolltronics web site at www.rolltronics.com.
Dow Chemical and several other companies have launched a program in Omaha, Neb. to divert about 36 tons of plastics from landfills in its first phase, and convert it into energy used for cement production.
Both traditional automation companies and startups are developing technologies to improve processes on the factory floor, while smart sensors and other IoT-related technologies are improving how products are handled during transport and across the supply chain.
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