The prototype is a “building block” that can be used for a number of different applications, says Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEX, a research firm. “There has been a huge effort on printing transistors globally,” Das says, “but very poor effort on making useful building blocks like this, which can be used horizontally for many applications.” The announcement by PARC and Thinfilm, he says, is “very good news.”
Thinfilm CEO Davor Sutija is interested in integrating the new device with a number of other printed electronics, particularly sensors. “You can see if a sensor has hit a particular threshold and record the number of times in memory,” he says. Sutija says the technology could record if a vaccine has been exposed to incorrect handling practices, or if food or other items that need refrigeration have gotten too warm. It could also power price tags that change depending on the time of day.
These sorts of applications are only possible, however, if manufacturing costs can be kept down. Thinfilm has partnered with Inktec, a leading developer of inks, to make the logic and memory devices in bulk. According to Sutija, his company’s 20-bit memory sells for five cents. Within the next three to five years, he expects, the more advanced systems will cost pennies. “Three to six cents isn’t hard to envision, given the scalability of printing,” he says.