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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Plastic Logic Limited

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

Plastic Logic is a leading developer of plastic electronics technology. It combines the power of electronics with the pervasiveness of printing to put electronics where you want, when you want.

The company's technology has the potential to radically change the economics of key segments of the electronics industry. It will make plastic electronics prevalent in markets where the attributes of large area, flexibility, robustness, customisability, and ultra-low cost are paramount.

Founded in November 2000, as a spinout from Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory, Plastic Logic is building on over 10 years of fundamental research by a world-class team. It is developing and exploiting a portfolio of intellectual property based on inkjet printing of active electronic circuits using advanced plastic materials.

Headquartered in state-of-the-art clean room facilities on the Cambridge Science Park, the company has received investment of over $17 million from a range of Venture Capital and other investors. Partners include leading chemical and printing companies.

Plastic electronics are manufactured – or printed – using direct writing and solution processing techniques rather than the traditional semiconductor manufacturing techniques of mask-alignment, vacuum deposition and high temperatures. This is a completely disruptive technology based on • New materials (organic semiconductors, printable metals, etc). • Additive manufacturing processes – some new and some existing – that are often solution-based (inkjet, direct write laser patterning, etc). • New substrates (flexible films, paper and ultimately package-free electronics) in place of glass and silicon. • Eventual migration from sheet-based to roll-to-roll processing.

The impact of this will be huge as it means the economics and performance of a plastic electronics fab will be much more attractive than a conventional silicon fab. It will be less capital intensive and viable on a smaller scale, creating the possibility of widely dispersed mini fabs. Performance will be broadly comparable to amorphous-Silicon, with potential to go beyond this as the technology matures. It will offer rapid design cycles, low economic build quantities and faster operational turnaround. Low cost of entry and low costs for relatively short manufacturing runs will allow diverse markets to grow rapidly.

The characteristics of our technology mean Plastic Logic can add value in many diverse markets. Plastic electronics will initially arrive in simple, low-end applications and move up in performance and breadth as the industry develops. It is complementary to conventional silicon electronics, serving established billion dollar markets such as electronic displays and enabling new concepts such as electronic labels, intelligent packaging, bio-sensors, disposable electronics, flexible e-paper and electro-textiles as well as novelty applications – gadgets, gizmos and games. Like many disruptive technologies, it’s likely (but by definition impossible to know) that the biggest applications for plastic electronics are not yet visible.