Published On: Sun, Apr 10th, 2016

The future is here: Interactive screens on your packages

Instead of reading a label, consumers could be interacting with an electronic screen on packaging in the future, thanks to a revolutionary new development by scientists at the University of Sheffield.
  • Scientists develop new way of attaching electronic screens to paper-based packaging
  • Screens can display simple messages to customers
  • Development could revolutionize packaging industry worth billions of dollars

In the near future, shopping or using products may include video or interactive content displaying on screens attached to packages, according to researchers in England.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield say a process to cheaply print electronics, and attach low-cost electronics and a screen to paper-based packaging, could herald the next generation of packaging.

This technology could be used in greetings cards or products where a customer could receive a simple message. More complex developments could include a countdown timer on the side of a packet to indicate when a timed product was ready — such as hair-dye, pregnancy tests or home-baking using a ‘traffic lights’ system.

The process involves printing electronic tracks onto paper and then fixing low-cost electronics and a polymer LED display to the paper using an adhesive that conducts electricity.

Working together, University of Sheffield scientists and Novalia also designed and constructed a touch-pad keyboard on the paper that allows a user to selectively ‘drive’ the LEDs in the display.

The research has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and testing so far has taken place on paper but the process could potentially be printed on other surfaces.

The team’s next steps are to create fully flexible organic displays on a plastic substrate that then fix onto the electronic tracks. The LED devices need to be low-cost and flexible enough to be used on all packaging.

Professor David Lidzey from the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy said: “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.”

Chris Jones from Novalia said: “The paper-based packaging industry is worth billions of dollars. This innovative system we have developed with the University of Sheffield could give manufacturers a way to gain market share by being able to distinguish its products from competitors.”

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