What Is Metallograph?
Metallograph® is a family of thermal transfer ribbons developed by IIMAK for printed electronics. Pure continuous aluminum and copper are used for conductives, and polymer resin for insulating and dielectrics. Thermal transfer is simple, fast and economical, and there are both digital and analog printers. It is especially suitable for producing flexible electrical circuits, sensor and LED mounts, RFID antennas & tags, radiant heaters, and more.
The printers are industrial quality from the label and graphics arts industry, so they are reliable, precise and economical. And they print on label, tag and graphic arts papers and films. That means for RFID direct to tag, not to inlay, as well as providing not-plastic and recycle compatible options.
Thermal transfer conductors and dielectrics are factory made, under comprehensive quality assurance, so consistency is inherent. In use there are no liquids, so printing is dry and requires no sintering. Transfer is immediate – the designer can have product to test within seconds, and the manufacturer has no set up or changeover time.
Materials for Transfer:
How Does it Compare to Etching and Conductive Ink?
Conductors are pure continuous metal
Minimum print feature 85 µm
Transfer is from solid state
Transfer takes milliseconds
Transfers to smooth print receptive substrate
Digital Printing Options
Uses off-the-shelf roll-to-roll thermal transfer label printers
Hot stamp or foiling for analog printing
Ribbon is factory produced
Aluminum metal is oxide-protected
Benefits of Metallograph
Inherent conductance is very high
Matches common printed circuits and chip connectors
No liquid handling or VOC
Print immediately available for use
Device has very small footprint
Very wide choice of substrates including paper & eco-friendly films.
Digital Value Proposition inherent (variable data, proof on press, no WIP, inventory only RM, short run, no set ups)
Low cost and quick delivery
Couple to other processes
Economical equipment on label presses
Stability for very long runs
Transfer is consistent with inherent quality
Conductors are very durable if dry
The foundation for reliably producing quality printed matter, comes from careful selection and optimization of the print system: the printer, substrates, inks & coatings, process control, software and finishing. We will help you identify an appropriate system and guide you through the learning stage. Should your needs be unusual and complicated, or extend beyond just the Metallograph® step, our expert consulting service is suggested. We have, for example, included laminations, multi-layer printing, screen printing of other electronic materials, and computer-driven die-cutting with Metallograph® printers.
Common print systems for Metallograph®
Industrial TT label printers are ruggedized devices operating 24/7 in thousands of factories around the world. Machines with print widths of 4, 6 and 8 inches, are readily available. They are immediate on/off without warmup or shutdown. They come with internal unwinds and rewinds, so can be standalone, or integrated into multi-step production lines. Speeds to 8 ips (200 mm/sec) are achieved with Metallograph®.
QuickLabel’s QLS 4100 Xe
It also can add concurrent text for identification and serialization.
The Gerber Edge®
For the highest volume production of identical items, like labels and packaging, analog print systems are more cost effective than digital.
Hot stamping is the appropriate technology for thermal transfer – a variant of the Metallograph® ribbon is manufactured and proven for this process.
We have proven it at 30 fpm, and it appears feasible at 100 fpm. Hot stamping is advantageous also because it is more tolerant of paper surface quality. As an example, we expect to print RFID antennas on the inner surfaces of folding cartons. With a chip attach machine, and over-coating or laminating with paper in series, plastic inlays become obsolete. This meets an environmental goal of many brands.
Ribbon can also be transferred by foiling. The conductor pattern is printed on the substrate by flexography (or inkjet), dried of cured, with the ribbon pressed against the adhesive in a laminator or calendar. The ribbon is stripped away with the conductor bonded to the substrate.
Please contact us directly if you are interested in examples from our testing, or in ribbon.
Substrates & Bases
Substrates for Printing Metallograph® Conductive Thermal Transfer Ribbon
Substrate selection is vital to print quality – savings by selecting a cheap alternative cannot be matched when scrap and lost time are realized. Metallograph® conductive ribbon prints best by digital thermal transfer onto premium quality, high smoothness print receptive surfaces. Smoothness on paper means both microscopic and macroscopic scales. Microscopic means roughness from fibers and pigments, whether protrusions or voids. Macroscopic refers to fiber clumps or in the trade, formation. Unless smooth on both scales ribbon contact with the surface will be uneven. Print receptivity is related to surface energy, itself a measure of wettability which is needed for bonding. Most polymers have low surface energy so need a primer coating, or corona treatment.
As TT is used extensively for adding variable data to labels and packages, there are a very large number of films, papers, label stocks and others useful for Metallograph®. A selection is provided in the attached brochure.