An innovative production platform for micro-products
Micro-products have become increasingly important in the medical, biotechnology, consumer and automotive sectors. However, products in these sectors such as innovative display solutions and light emitting panels require the integration of different functionalities and demand new mass manufacturing methods and technologies.
An ongoing research effort is bringing high-speed and self-assembling methods to production lines for micro-products, with potential applications in a wide range of sectors. Started in July 2009, Light-Rolls is researching the development of a production platform for the seamless and mass manufacture of these micro-products.
With €3.7 in EU-funding under the Seventh Framework Programme, Light-Rolls is integrating highly innovative manufacturing and assembly technologies into a common technology platform. This platform uses “roll-to-roll manufacturing” which is the process of creating electronic devices on a roll of plastic or foil.
Light-Rolls is coordinated by Spanish non-profit technology centre PRODINTEC, along with the German SME, microTEC, assisting in the scientific-technical coordination, and has partners from industry and research institutes in Austria, Germany, Italy, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Scotland.
“Roll-to-roll manufacturing is predicted by many to be one of the most important means of production in the future due to the increasing demand for flexible products and the need for low cost production,” says Light-Rolls project representative David Gonzalez of PRODINTEC. “Light-Rolls offers innovative production solutions that produce better and low cost products that are based on enhanced production methods.”
The manufacturing platform in Light-Rolls is based on RMPD®-rotation, which is a patented process technology to generate three-dimensional structures using a fast additive manufacturing process. Other innovations associated with the project include new self-assembling methods and interconnection based on ink-jet printing technologies.
With its micro-product production platform, it is predicted that Light-Rolls will bring high-tech jobs to Europe. “Achieving success in the project will enable Europe to say ahead of the game in micro-manufacturing. This will increase Europe's competitiveness in new production technologies and innovative products,” says Gonzalez.
Meanwhile, as SMEs production lines in micro-products expand, so will the business opportunities for European SMEs in new and well known growing markets.
Work on Light-Rolls will continue until the end of 2012. The opportunities for the European manufacturing industry are potentially significant and according to Gonzalez, the first industrial users are already identified, but “new partners are always welcome”.
These partnerships could see Light-Rolls being involved in a myriad of sectors including automotive and building lighting applications, flexible solar cells and batteries and even consumer products and games.