Scientists have developed a digital upgrade for packaging for food, beauty products, and just about anything. They have come up with a new way to attach electronic screens to paper so that companies can add media to their product’s packaging. The electronic packaging could be used simply for company branding, but it could also display helpful messages, such as a countdown to an expiration date, detailed nutrition information, or a timer for time-sensitive products such as hair dye, pregnancy tests, or baking mixes.
Labels on packaging could become much more innovative, and allow customers to interact with and explore new products. The use of displays or light emitting panels on packaging will also allow companies to communicate brand awareness in a more sophisticated manner.
The research team includes scientists in the U.K. from the University of Sheffield and a technology startup called Novalia. They described their method in a paper that published in IEEE Explore. They attached an array of organic light emitting diodes (OLED) onto a glass substrate, which they attached to paper using a pressure-sensitive conducting adhesive. They built a touch-pad keyboard by screen-printing a series of capacitive touch pads and connecting tracks onto the paper using an inexpensive graphite ink. CMOS-based electronics that were also attached to the paper were powered by AA batteries.
The current protoype was based on paper, but a similar technique could be used to print electronics onto plastic or other surfaces. The researchers will now work on developing OLEDs that are flexible and inexpensive enough to be used on all forms of packaging.