RR Donnelley expands printed electronics offering

David Ward, San Diego
Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chicago-based RR Donnelley & Sons this week added RFID and NFC (Near Field Communications) capabilities to its printed electronics initiative as it looks establish a foothold in an industry that is expected to generate more than $10bn in worldwide annual sales within the next few years.

The company said its uniquely printed NFC and RFID tags can be embedded in an extensive range of products, including product packaging, shipping labels, displays, direct mail pieces, catalogs, magazines and more.

"RFID is a well established technology - we’ve been providing integrated RFID labels and tags for more than 15 years and we believe that its advantages will continue to inspire increasing demand," RR Donnelley COO Dan Knotts told PrintWeek in an interview.

"NFC is an emerging technology and we are positioned to offer our customers a first mover advantage. In addition to providing NFC tags, we offer a full range of products that tags can be integrated with, as well as the capacity to create the extended experience on mobile devices."

RR Donnelley said its manufacturing process allows customers to take advantage of flexible antenna design, adding it also offers testing and proof-of-concept services to help customers identify optimal designs. By combining printed electronics technology with its wide array of digital, logistics and printed products and services, the company said it hopes to drive a new generation of interactive communications solutions.

"NFC will be part of the marketing arsenal," Knotts explained. "It’s designed to expand the experience that consumers begin with print, so we’ll be collaborating with customers to help them find results-producing applications and to deliver end-to-end solutions."

RR Donnelley took a major step into printed electronics back in 2011, when it took an equity stake and entered into a commercial agreement with Lakeland, FL-based embedded power solutions company Solicore to develop printed batteries.

Though only a handful in the commercial printing industry are focused on it, a study by Silicon Valley-headquartered business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan noted printed electronics are rapidly gaining popularity across applications for their benefits of low cost, high throughput, ease of manufacturing, and use in new applications. The study went on to predict the total global market for printed electronics will reach $10.9bn in 2016.

"The European market is a front runner in terms of innovation and technological know how," the report's author, Frost & Sullivan analyst Nupur Sinha, told PrintWeek. "It has the broadest research base, and the European countries show significant interest in printed electronics. In regards to North America, this area leads the printed electronics market in terms of demand potential with initial successful commercial products being adopted by end users across the nation.

"The huge potential the Asian markets offer cannot be negated.  Though the number of printed electronic companies in Asia is comparatively less than North America and Europe, manufacturing of end user devices are predominantly done in Asian countries that constitute to their greater market share."


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