A Flexible Battery from Blue Spark Technologies
In a previous article, we highlighted printed electronics company PragmatIC Printing and their ability to produce sub-micron transistors on various flexible substrates. PragmatIC recently partnered with P&G and several other firms to create the world’s first flexible multi-functional timer based on commercially available printed electronics. This timer was distributed at the IDTechEx Printed Electronics Europe event which took place last week in Berlin. A company called Blue Spark Technologies developed the battery that powered this flexible timer.
Founded in 2003, Blue Spark Technologies has taken in over $18 million in funding so far from 5 investors including Key Capital Corporation and SunBridge Partners. Blue Spark develops thin, flexible printed batteries built on intellectual property acquired from Energizer (NYSE:ENR). Since 2004, over 300,000 of Blue Spark’s flexible batteries have been produced and delivered. In January 2012, Blue Spark opened a high-volume production factory in Wisconsin capable of printing over 300 million flexible printed batteries per year for interactive print media and powered RFID.
Blue Spark’s printed, green and disposable carbon-zinc batteries come in two sizes; the ST Series and the UT Series. While the ST Series is well suited to a multitude of products and applications, its target applications are “RF enabled sensors” and “interactive printed media” such as greeting cards, consumer packaging, and promotional displays. The ST Series is 0.029 inches thick and can be highly customized by Blue Spark for various voltages, sizes, shapes, capacities, and polarities. The UT (Ultra Thin) series battery is as highly customizable as the ST Series, but less that .02 inches thick. Target applications for the UT are “assisted passive RFID” and “smart cards”. If you’re unsure what the difference is between “RF enabled sensors” and “assisted passive RFID”, CoreRFID has put together an excellent guide to RFID.
Blue Spark has partnered with Sealed Air (NYSE:SEE) to produce the Turbo Tag™ RFID Time and Temperature Monitoring System.
This credit card-sized RFID “smart card” uses Blue Spark thin printed batteries to power data logging functionality to track and record cold chain temperatures in real-time from the processing plant, in transit, and up to the point of delivery. In November 2013, Blue Spark partnered with Trace Tech ID Solutions, a Spanish RFID technology provider, to produce disposable RF-enabled time-temperature monitoring smart labels.
According to a 2012 market research report by MarketsandMarkets, the total thin film and printed battery market in 2012 was $181.5 million and is expected to reach $1.2 billion by 2017, a CAGR of 46.14%. Blue Spark is not the only company looking to benefit from this strong future growth. In a future article, we’ll look at another private company with strong backing that is directly challenging Blue Spark’s flexible battery technology.
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