Printed flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) is finding an increasing number of applications in the fields of displays, sensors, actuators and in energy harvesting and storage. The technology involves the printing of conductive and insulating patterns as well as mounting electronic devices and circuits on flexible substrate materials. Typical plastic substrates in use are, for example, non-renewable-based poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) or poly(imides) (PI) with high thermal and dimensional stability, solvent resistance and mechanical strength. The aim of this study was to assess whether renewable-based plastic materials can be applied on sheet-to-sheet (S2S) screen-printing of conductive silver patterns. The selected materials were biaxially oriented (BO) bio-based PET (Bio-PET BO), poly(lactic acid) (PLA BO), cellulose acetate propionate (CAP BO) and regenerated cellulose film, NatureFlex™ (Natureflex). The biaxial orientation and annealing improved the mechanical strength of Bio-PET and PLA to the same level as the reference PET (Ref-PET). All renewable-based substrates showed a transparency comparable to the Ref-PET. The printability of silver ink was good with all renewable-based substrates and printed pattern resistance on the same level as Ref-PET. The formation of the printed pattern to the cellulose-based substrates, CAP BO and Natureflex, was very good, showing 10% to 18% lower resistance compared to Ref-PET and obtained among the bio-based substrates the smallest machine and transverse direction deviation in the S2S printing process. The results will open new application possibilities for renewable-based substrates, and also potentially biodegradable solutions enabled by the regenerated cellulose film and PLA.
Keywords: biopolymer films; flexible hybrid electronics; flexible printed electronics; renewable-based substrate; screen-printing; surface energy.