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Plastic electronics tech attracts ARM investment

Posted: 16 Feb 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PragmatIC Printing  ARM  flexible electronics 

PragmatIC Printing has received about ₹51.23 crore ($8.3 million) from ARM Holdings coming from a funding round led by Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC) together with existing shareholders. PragmatIC Printing's CEO Scott White said the investment does not give any exclusive control to ARM.

It is simply a way for ARM to steer some of our activities and give some meaningful and useful input to the business, helping guide what we do, he said.

When asked if ARM could come up with specific IP to leverage PragmatIC Printing's process design rules for flexible electronics, White didn't want to speculate.

We are broadening our circuit design activities on several fronts, from re-using standard circuit architectures to developing new functionalities and architectures that are a better fit for the type of applications envisaged with our customers, said White.

The funds will help the company ramp up its production capacity from a few million printed circuits units today to a hundred million flexible ICs later this year (each circuit typically consisting of a few hundred gates).

We are aiming at a ten-fold capacity expansion. The market for flexible electronics is still developing and could represent a few tens of millions units for us in the near future, but building a higher capacity is also about building more confidence, so we can go where our customers may want to go in terms of volumes, said white.

For PragmatIC Printing, the higher throughput will also mean faster design iterations and shrinking delivery times for new circuits, with the ability to run a mix of designs concurrently, fulfilling customer orders while still being able to fine tune its processes and characterise new circuit blocks.

As of the present, the feature size of the transistors we pattern on flexible substrates (on a sheet-basis) is in the single-digit micrometre range, stated White, but we know that both our process and materials could work at much smaller scales, we have proven workable design rules down to 50nm and we have our own version of Moore's law already mapped out he added. In fact, we expect our design rules to shrink much faster than Moore's law, said White.

Commercially, we are today at a stage comparable to what semiconductor companies were doing in the 80s and 90s, with some of our designs packing well over 10,000 transistors, in fact well beyond anything else we've seen so far in the plastic electronics industry or even in academia, he added.

The CEO would not reveal the footprint of such designs. It will become clearer as we announce both products and commercial engagements later this year, he noted.

What is also clear is that both ARM and PragmatIC Printing see low-cost plastic electronics fill a chunk of the wearable and IoT bubble.

- Julien Happich
  EE Times Europe





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