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7

Magazine for Organic & Printed Electronics

Whether it’s the motion or speed of an

object, wear and tear on parts, the quality

of a product or the working environment

itself, sensors are used to gather data

about whatever is being monitored.

Sensors must be integrated with

electronics such as microcontrollers or

microprocessors, for local data processing

and command/control at the node level.

Radios and other wireless communications

hardware and software are integrated

so that data can be sent to a central hub

where greater aggregation is performed,

either before an action is taken by the

distributed edge nodes or to log and analyse

the actions that they executed locally.

Advantage of

printed sensors

Silicon-based sensors limit sensing

applications due to their cost, rigidity and

bulky nature. Fortunately, over the past

few years, advances in sensing materi-

als and flexible electronics have brought

about a new class of printed sensor

technologies that promise to bring the

IoT into areas it couldn’t go before.

Particularly for IIoT applications, the

advantages of printed sensors are numer-

ous. In addition to the form factor advan-

tages, they are more cost-effective than sili-

con sensors and can be printed at low cost

in mass volumes. They can then be placed

in much greater numbers, providing a richer

set of real-time data that can be used by

the system, regardless of the application at

hand. This allows for both greater and faster

detection of problems and potential prob-

lems at the node level, as well as greater

trend data for better analysis and continu-

ous improvements at the system level. For

example, printed moisture sensors can be

used to detect small leaks in equipment for

a few dollars whereas detecting the same

thing using existing silicon sensors comes

with a heftier price tag in the thousands.

Printed sensors also allow for real-time

monitoring, and are ideal for applications

with a limited power source, as they need

only a small amount of energy to detect

a broad range of variables. What makes

printed sensors the most versatile option

for the IIoT is their ability to conform to

any shape or surface; e.g., wine bottles,

fruit, vegetables, clothing, labels with an

adhesive backing, oddly shaped/non-flat

industrial equipment surfaces – the pos-

sibilities are almost endless (Figure 2).

Additionally, integration with the other,

non-printed electronics in the system is easy.

Figure 2: The flexibility of printed sensors

enables them to conform to the shape of nearly

any end application

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