WASHINGTON – A leading U.S. supplier of printed batteries said Tuesday (Jan. 31) it will open a high-volume printing and production facility in Wisconsin.
Cleveland-based Blue Spark Technologies Inc. said its new plant to be located in West Bend, Wis., could produce as many as 300 million carbon-zinc batteries a year. The ultra-thin, flexible batteries are used in a range of printed electronics applications such as “interactive” packaging used for food and pharmaceuticals, battery-powered RFID chips and RF-linked sensors as well as smart cards.
Industry analysts estimate that the market for printed electronics could grow to more than $44 billion over the next decade from about $2.2 billion in 2011. Blue Spark said increased interest in its printed battery technologies prompted it to begin expanding production.
Matt Ream, Blue Spark’s vice president of marketing, said the decision to expand its production base was prompted growing customer demand and projected growth in the global market for printed electronics.
The new facility is expected to employ between 10 and 20 workers “in the mid-term” as the company ramps up manufacturing, according to Ream. Blue Spark is leasing the factory space from the Wisconsin city’s economic development agency under “favorable” terms, Ream added.
The other reason for locating in West Bend was proximity to Blue Spark’s manufacturing equipment suppliers. “It all made fiscal sense to us,” Ream said. “We’re putting our money where our mouth is.”
The company closed a $7.5 million Series B funding round in December 2010. At the time, the company said it would use the funds to ramp up manufacturing of its printed battery products.
Blue Spark’s core battery technology originated with battery maker Energizer. The company uses a co-planer architecture that allows it to print anodes and cathodes on a single substrate as opposed to the standard “sandwich” battery architecture. Ream said the company’s “secret sauce” is in its printed battery technology which allows it to use a roll-to-roll manufacturing technique.
Ream said an emerging market for the printed battery maker is “battery-assisted passive RFID” that could extend the read range of current RFID tags from about 30 feet to as much as 150 feet. The company is also looking at new markets like interactive printed media on consumer packaging. That could mean adding printed displays to packaging to provide consumers with additional product information and the ability to provide customer feedback.