1 April 2013
Ryerson Colloquium thinks smart packaging
TORONTO—Innovations in printed electronics were the focus at Think, this year's Ryerson University Graphic Communications Management (GCM) Colloquium held March 28.

Organized by a committee of students, the event featured keynote presentations by James Lee, director of technology and innovation at Jones Packaging, and Adrien Côté, research scientist at Xerox Research Centre of Canada.

James Lee uses a talking Spongebob poster to show the potential of smart packaging

Lee noted the excitement around smart packaging developments, specifically when it comes to the pharmaceutical sector, which is Jones Packaging's speciality. He made clear though that printed circuits won't replace silicon, and would instead be a value-add in the same vein as digital. "Complex circuits can't realistically be produced by print," he said, citing size as a factor.

He predicted printed electronics could have a major impact in retail security where cumbersome EAS tags and ugly spider wraps are the norm, and for supply chain logistics, where printed electronic tags on packages could feasibly be scanned by "smart shelves" for analytic tracking and automatic stock ordering. In the pharma and food sectors, printed sensors could track and log storage temperatures as well as relay information about consumption when a package is opened, ensuring safer products and proper use.

There are still obstacles to be tackled though, Lee said. Consistency concerns are paramount because issues like dot gain can have unpredictable results or even cause short-circuits. "We have a hard enough time with small type," he said. Durability is also an issue, as heavy package handling and folding could affect the ink's conductivity. Not to mention cost: right now testing is being done with expensive silver ink.

Ontario hosts a fertile mix of manufacturing and science, says Adrien Côté

In his own talk, Xerox's Côté echoed many of the same talking points as Paul Smith's presentation last month at the company's research centre. (Smith was originally scheduled to speak at the colloquium but dropped out due to unforeseen circumstances.) Côté reiterated that Xerox plans to make personalization ubiquitous, and said that every time a customer touches a product there is the possibility for an exchange of information.

Côté said that Ryerson is a part of the provincial "ecosystem" that will drive the development of printed electronics and help bring the technology to market. "Ontario is right at the intersection of manufacturing and science," he said.

A reception followed, featuring displays from Bash Interactive, Ryerson DMZ startup Flybits, and PrintCAN's sister magazine Graphic Monthly Canada.
— Jef Catapang
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