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VTT forecast: New industry from printed intelligence


By combining IT, electronics and printing technologies, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is in the process of creating entirely new business opportunities based on printed smart products. In cooperation with a number of other companies, VTT is using the roll-to-roll technology to develop innovative, printed smart products, which will open up new opportunities for both big and small production facilities. In the future, we may well find ourselves using products such as functional wallpaper that can identify mildew or a smart floor that functions as a user interface for dementia patients or even food products that indicate their own freshness.

Breaking new ground

VTT has considerable competence as a developer of printed smart technologies both at the domestic and international level. VTT’s new Center for Printed Intelligence seeks to break new ground in the area between the traditional ICT industry and the paper industry. The aim is to promote the commercialisation and birth of business for new products that utilise both of these industries. Applications are aimed at the global markets through mass production. By using current printing technologies, it is already possible to create new kinds of smart products with even the simplest printing machines, although the volumes are considerable. 

Immense possibilities

The application possibilities are immense. Product groups already in development include multi-technological smart products and bioactive paper, as well as ICT and electronics products.

Of particular note among the multi-technological smart products are organic, flexible solar cells, simple displays and disposable sensors that can be utilised in home diagnostics and smart packaging. Electronics created out of ink-type materials, such as disposable bio sensors, can add intelligence and functionality as indicators of freshness in food product packaging, without actually being electronic in nature. 

In the field of bioactive paper, application possibilities are being sought among smart products manufactured for large surfaces. In our vision of the future, these may include smart wallpaper with embedded molecules that can identify mildew, press sensors in newspapers that can measure pollen levels in the air, and filters that can be used in air-conditioning devices or respirator masks.

The opportunities for affordable combinations of ICT and electronics products are considerable. Printed and organic electronics can be incorporated in large area interfaces, which can prove useful in, for example, nursing services. The manufacture of smart flooring with pressure sensors functioning as a user interface for dementia patients is also a future possibility. Such technology would make it possible to monitor whether a patient is walking or perhaps lying on the floor in need of help.

Printing methods also enable the production of flexible ICT and electronics products. Printed smart products may also be equipped with safety-related product data displaying such information as the origins and authenticity of a product.

Commercialisation of printed smart products

Avantone is the first Finnish company to commercialise printed optical effects for use in brand advertising products. Upcode, another Finnish company, is commercialising a service product based on reading printed tags with a cameraphone, as well as the retrieval of product specifications or user instructions via a Web link.

Material for media


Printed electronics and optics

Paper converting, printing



More information

Harri Kopola
Research Professor, Director, Center for Printed Intelligence
+358 20 722 2369, +358 40 557 4867