Integrated Papertronic Techniques

Paper PCBs Heralded as the Future of Disposable Electronics

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Electronics has a big waste problem, often referred to as eWaste. However, a recent study into Integrated Papertronic Techniques may provide a path away from the toxic eWaste dystopia. The study looks closely at the potential of using paper in disposable electronics, beginning with paper-printed circuit boards (PCBs). Futurist Faisal Khan reckons the study, published by researchers from the State University of New York at Binghamton, shows single-use paper PCBs are the future of disposable electronics.

Paper is a highly affordable, accessible, flexible, and sustainable material, which is thus a strong candidate for environmentally friendly PCB designs. Current PCBs are made of an environmentally unfriendly blend of glass fibers, resins and metal wiring. In the drive to combat eWaste we must consider how to both increase recycling rates of electronic devices and produce more single-use electronics using appropriate biodegradable materials.

(Image credit: State University of New York at Binghamton)

A diagram accompanying the paper provides an overview of the paper PCB creation process. In brief, the steps are as follows: wax pattern printing, paper ink infusion, and screen printing of functional elements, laser cutting of through holes, and adding conductive traces. The aforementioned inks use a mix of conductive and semi-conductive formulas, capable of forming resistors, capacitors and transistors. The printed ‘wires’ and components are said to be as flexible as the paper they are deposited on.

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