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No 21 | November 2017 |



Use cases

Now that we understand

the benefits of printed sensing

technology for IIoT applica-

tions, let’s take a look at several

use-case examples that would

benefit from implementing them.

Logistics and Supply

Chain Management

Printing sensors on labels for

warehouse and freight monitoring

allows for much more than just

basic inventory tracking. It is now

possible to determine the impact

of environmental conditions on a

product’s shelf-life using tem-

perature, moisture and volatile

organic compound sensors. For

example, labelling oranges with

printed sensors allows produce

suppliers to gather data to allow for predic-

tive monitoring over the orange’s lifetime,

including temperature maps, the humidity

of the storage and shipping environment,

and its shelf-life based on different environ-

ments, cost and energy usage. This data

can be used by grocery stores for inven-

tory control to reduce produce waste.

Manufacturing Environment

In a manufacturing environment, there

are multiple opportunities to put printed

and flexible sensors to work. For example,

they can be used to monitor equipment for

predictive and preventive maintenance by

tracking the effects of aging on tool parts.

Printed sensors can also be placed on tubing

and hoses to measure flexion, temperature

and moisture, analyse the impact expansion

and contraction has, and determine when

the part might fail. This helps minimise tool

downtime by allowing for replacement

before parts fail. Flexible strain sensors can

also be used in robotics for feedback.

Printed temperature sensors can take

the guesswork out of sensing in a manufac-

turing environment. For example, current

approaches to monitoring a temperature coil

on a manufacturing tool require attaching a

solid sensor to a metal tube and performing

computational algorithms to determine the

temperature. Alternatively, printed sensors

can be adhered directly to the coil’s surface

to provide an accurate reading without

performing a computational exercise.

Resource Management

The use of printed sensors could have

a considerable impact on the safety and

security of a particular environment, from

a smart facility to a smart city. In a closed

factory setting, printed sensors can be inte-

grated into personal protective equipment,

such as wearable devices and clothing, to

monitor the temperature, moisture and air

quality of the environment and determine its

impacts on employees’ health and well-

ness, as well as for regulatory-compliance

monitoring and reporting. On a grand

scale, printed sensor arrays can be used

for managing water quality by testing pH,

nitrates, and for metals and ion conductivity.

Availability of

printed sensors

Over the past few years, Brewer

Science has engaged in the research

and development of a family of carbon-

based printed and flexible sensors for

moisture, temperature and flex sensing

that is ideally suited to IIoT applications

(Figure 3). As a whole, these sensors are

extremely sensitive to minor changes,

provide highly accurate sensing data in

real time, and offer a low-cost alternative

to the more expensive silicon solutions.


The only thing standing in the way of

unleashing the full power of printed sensor

technology on the IIoT is a general lack

of awareness about its full potential and,

by association, its slow pace of adoption.

Because the technology is still very much in

its infancy, there is still much to be proven;

and more field data is needed to support

claims. For example, there are

concerns about sensor robustness

and lifetimes. To address this,

Brewer Science is running con-

trolled tests to provide data such

as the maximum number of bends

a sensor can accommodate.

Growth in emerging printed

sensor technologies – such as

biosensing, gas sensing and

photodetectors – that are

moving from R&D into high-

volume manufacturing will help

put these concerns to rest. In

fact, market research company

IDTechEX predicts the market

for fully printed sensors will

reach $7.6bn by 2027.



Science will continue to work

closely with customers, not only

on printed and flexible sensor technologies,

but also to deliver customised integrated

systems that provide solutions for sensing

applications wherever they are needed.


(1) Industrial Internet of Things





(2) Khan, K.: “Printed and Flexible Sensors

to be Next Big Point in the Internet of

Things,” September 2016



(3) “Industrial IoT Market by Device and

Technology,” February 2017, Markets

and Markets Report



(4) Eror, N., et al.: “Introduction to

Sensors,” Expanding the Vision of

Sensor Materials, Committee on New

Sensor Technologies: Materials and

Applications, 1995, Ch. 1, p. 9.

(5) ibid.

(6) “Printed and Flexible Sensors 2017-

2027: Technologies, Players, Forecasts,”





Figure 3: Members of the printed sensor family developed by

Brewer Science