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Why Manufacturing Engineers Are Gravitating Towards Silver Nanowire Technology

Sri Peruvemba   







 By Sri Peruvemba
Vice President
Cambrios Technologies Corp.

A growing manufacturing sea change is now in play. Because of the available economies, there is a move from the incumbent, indium tin oxide (ITO) to electrodes based on silver nanowires (AgNW). This transition in manufacturing is due to several distinct material differences.

In the rapidly-paced world of electronic products, including touch screens for consumer products, OLED lighting components and solar collection cells, AgNW offers key properties for mass-production. And the material clearly trumps legacy conductor materials in end-product performance.

Manufacturing efficiencies includes reduced capital equipment costs, notably faster processing speed and reduced energy requirements. Additionally, availability of raw materials, (indium can be scarce during different times of the year, silver is not) reduced material requirements and ease of assembly also contribute to the increasing adoption across several industries.

AgNW is being extensively applied in consumer, medical and industrial products because it offers lower manufacturing and per-unit product costs and enables far easier scaling. Roll-to-roll processed silver nanowire transparent conductors are the clear choice especially for new production facilities needing high throughput and easier processing.

Transparent conductors are being applied as electrodes for LCD, OLED, thin film photovoltaic cells and applications not yet imagined. In general, the design requirements remain the same: higher conductivity and improved light transmission.

Single-layer touch sensors based on silver nanowires offer notably lower cost than ITO because they use fewer layers of materials in the touchscreen stack or solar collector array panel. This equates directly to dramatically reduced manufacturing complexity and reduced materials consumption. Single layer sensors can be made with silver nanowires that eliminate the need for an additional substrate, conductor and adhesive. This enables thinner consumer electronics (CE) product displays. Thin is in because nearly all products, particularly in the CE domain, need to be sleek and attractive.

The next product trend is flexibility. In real-world tests, silver nanowire coated films withstand greater than 450,000 turns around a 1mm bending radius, demonstrating great fit in flexible, rollable electronic products like solar collectors that wrap around a building or a CE wearable that wraps around your arm or leg. ITO being a ceramic like material is brittle and does not flex.

When compared directly, silver nanowire-based touchscreens range from slightly less to significantly lower in cost than equivalent ITO film-based solutions. Silver nanowires cost less because of the equipment to make them is about tenth the cost of ITO capital equipment.

AgNW can also be patterned using room temperature lasers. Laser patterning equipment costs are also lower. Further, the manufacturing processes require no consumables. Additionally there are no hazardous waste disposal problems. It’s a greener way of making products.

Silver nanowire production is a clean, automated process with low labor costs and fairly limited space requirements. Production is easily scalable that satisfy rapidly expanding demand from multinational CE product OEMs like Lenovo, HP, DELL, LG and Toshiba. AgNW based touch sensors and films are already being manufactured by industry leading heavyweights. These include Hitachi, LG, Nissha, Okura, TPK, 3M, and many other manufacturing giants.

For manufacturing engineers focusing on yield, speed, material consumption and cost reduction, silver nanowire-based processing offers immediate, inherent advantages. The material is cost-effectively helping the transition to products we used to only imagine.


Published Date : 5/5/2016

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