Random shaping for electronics to improve human-machine interfaces

Imec and partners have launched TERASEL (Thermo-plastically deformable circuits for embedded randomly shaped electronics), a project to develop and apply large-area, cost-effective, randomly shaped electronics and sensor circuit technologies.

Imec, headquartered in Belgium and active in R&D into nano-electronics, say that electronics are conventionally made on flat substrates but the TERASEL project will develop a basic technology platform for rigid large-area randomly shaped electronic circuits.

To achieve this, a process to embed elastic flat circuits in thermo-plastically deformable polymers will be developed. Then, a high pressure, low temperature thermoforming technology to deform the circuit into its random final functional shape will be developed.

TERASEL will also set up a complete multi-competence industrial production chain capable of achieving mature, near-to-production industrial processes for manufacturing randomly shaped circuits.

Technologies developed by the project will be applied in a number of functional prototype demonstrators, such as television sets with ambient illumination, free-form man-machine interfaces, intelligent car interior components, 2.5D lighting devices, and household appliances.

‘TERASEL will draw upon the synergy and collaboration between partners in the electronics circuit fabrication and assembly industry and polymer processing industry’, said Imec project manager Jan Vanfleteren in a statement. ‘By merging the two industries’ competences and expertise, the project will produce an exciting new range of products for a wide set of application domains.’

The project is being carried out under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Information and Communication Technologies (FP7).

Over the next three years, TERASEL will be coordinated by Imec, through Imec’s associated laboratory located at the Ghent University (Center for Microsystems Technology (CMST)).

Project partners include Centro Ricerche Fiat, Italy, Fraunhofer IZM, Freudenberg Forschungsdienste, Niebling, Germany, and Nief Plastic, Association Pôle Européen de Plasturgie, France.