As recent conferences and announcements have shown, printed electronics is edging closer to becoming a more mainstream technology. New products are heading toward production, and investments are on the upswing.
Printechnologics, a Chemnitz, Germany-based specialist in creating electronic features on paper or foil through the use of conventional printing methods, has become very prominent in recent months.
In October, the company announced a deal with 3M New Ventures, in which 3M received a stake in Printechnologics.
At Printed Electronics and Photovoltaics USA 2010, held in Santa Clara, CA in early December, Printechnologics broke the news that its AirCode touch, the first technology allowing advertisers to bridge the gap of print and digital world in a intuitive way, by using the touch screens of electronic devices to read digital data invisibly hidden in paper, is now available. Printechnologics is working closely with major brand owners in developing this technology.
“We have taken two major steps in the last few weeks, first with the announcement of 3M New Ventures’ investment in our company and then with our new AirCode touch launch,” Sascha Voigt, CEO and founder of Printechnologics, noted. “It has been a very exciting time for us.”
Working with 3M
The announcement that 3M is investing in Printechnologics is major news in the industry. 3M has been involved in a wide variety of PE segments, and its R&D and marketing capabilities are excellent. Mr. Voigt said the deal with 3M came quickly.
“The 3M investment went extremely fast,” Mr. Voigt said. “In the beginning of 2010, we saw a growing need to add financial investors, and 3M is a perfect fit. All in all, it took less than five months to close the deal.
“Most importantly, a financial investor supplies just money, while 3M gives us additional resources, such as business development and R&D expertise,” Mr. Voigt added. “3M is also an important customer for us, as our technology is now being used in four different projects at 3M.”
On Dec. 1, Printechnologics announced the availability of its newest product, AirCode touch. Essentially, AirCode touch allows the user to place a card, a package or just a piece of paper on their smart phone’s touch screen or hold the smart phone on a label, which will allow access to a brand owner’s app. This could lead to anything from coupons and games to additional informational information.
AirCode touch works on a broad range of Apple, Android or Windows Phone 7 smart phones on the market today without using a camera, RFID or NFC; no hardware modifications required.
Mr. Voigt said that the AirCode touch was the natural follow-up from AirCode pro, its brand protection project.
“AirCode pro led to the development of AirCode touch,” Mr. Voigt said. “It fills the gap for an external reading device. It is a breakthrough. It works with every standard multi-touch screen.”
AirCode touch can be used for a broad variety of marketing and consumer information applications like loyalty programs, brand protection, lotteries, games, access to online content and more.
“We develop promotional items that work with applications from the brand owner creates, such as downloading free music, or using it for brand authentication,” Mr. Voigt said. “We see the first application for areas such as security, and we are talking with brand-owners such as toy companies.”
For example, Mr. Voigt noted that Printechnologics is working with many big brands on projects. The company is also developing a game with a huge toy company, where people can use their trading cards to activate a game against someone across the world. In another example, an international publishing company is working on using AirCode touch to offer extra copy, videos and ads.
The data tags can be printed on standard offset printing systems, which means that they are extremely inexpensive to produce in high volume. Mr. Voigt noted that Printechnologics is developing the technology, but is not doing the final printing. The company will maintain control of all of the aircodes.
“We don’t print the final product; we develop the technology, and license it to brand owners so they can use their existing supply chain,” Mr. Voigt said.
Mr. Voigt said that the AirCode touch is ready for the market now.
“In 2011, we’ll see the first AirCode product on the market,” Mr. Voigt concluded. “We are already getting good feedback.”