Sign In
Information about science based innovations, solid facts to support decision-making, performance and business development for VTT’s partners, customers and anyone interested in high technology and its applications.
A magazine on science, technology and business

​​​​​​​​​​​Petteri Närä (front) and Petri Särkelä work on Promilless test strips in VTT's laboratory in Oulu. The product is now ready for the world.​

Designers needed in printed technology

Juha-Pekka Honkanen | 14.10.2016

​Printed intelligence is close to conquering the world – the first PI products are already on the market. VTT's PrintoCent R&D unit in Oulu is entering a new era.

When the PrintoCent printed intelligence Pilot factory was opened in Oulu in 2012, it was expected to gain a two or three year head start in the global PI race. Four years later, the unit is serving companies that use printed intelligence, while matching international companies with Nordic expertise in the sector. In Oulu, PI development has shifted from supporting individual innovators to creating an entire industrial sector.

Ilkka Kaisto, the Director of PrintoCent, says that, right now, research institutes are creating product demos and pre-production trial series, prototypes and prototype series based on customer needs. The aim is to convince end-customers that PI should be part of their products.

– The next three years will involve fighting on these two fronts, and products will begin to enter the markets from 2018 onwards.

At that point, the ICT cities that demonstrate the ability to meet these new needs will be the winners.

– This is ultimately about credibility as a producer of printed intelligence. When a region has enough companies in the sector, it has high potential to break through into the international markets, says research team leader Kari Rönkä of VTT. 

Printed technology has mainly resided in testing laboratories or research units rather than production plants. Now, after the product development, prototyping and pilot series stages, printed intelligence is ready for the markets. For example, Promilless, a blood-alcohol measurement device by Oulu-based company Goodwiller Ltd (see mini-article), was developed at PrintoCent.

Kaisto points out that PrintoCent has brought 25 companies into the world since 2010. Half of these emerged from VTT's own research groups and half from printed intelligence business training, i.e. the Pälli courses. Firms are provided with support and assistance on a case-by-case basis. Some are provided with R&D, while others may need enhancement and marketing of their business activities.

– One of PrintoCent's achievements lies in bringing companies and research institutions together. There is no need for expensive product development and piloting facility investments when services can be bought in as required, comments Kaisto.

 

From prototypes to industrial scale

PrintoCent helps the local printed intelligence SME companies to the negotiating table with large, international companies. At the same time, the piloting needs are growing. First, a printing machine has been used to create single prototypes, which now form the basis of up to hundreds of thousands of demo series.

– Printed intelligence products are now forming part of a larger whole, which places the emphasis on quality. To get the product to market, fully functional products need to be manufactured with a more than 99 percent yield and faulty products have to be identified, Kaisto explains.

A world-class piloting and R&D environment also raises the credibility of firms among funding agencies. A small firm can overcome its size limitations when it has access to over a hundred researchers and a high-technology piloting environment.

However, being the world's first PI innovator is not enough in order to succeed. You also need to get your products into the world. Since 2013, a cluster of 40 companies has been operating alongside PrintoCent. This has brought together small startups, SMEs, and large companies operating on the global markets.

Interaction is direct during meetings, but is not limited to encounters within the cluster. Kaisto characterises the network as ideal for creating multi-company projects funded by Tekes. This involves joint research projects implemented by companies, VTT, the University of Oulu, and Oulu University of Applied Sciences.

– Multi-company projects are a slick way of doing research, since in practice this means completing a project in about one rather than two or three years, comments Kaisto.

 One of these is the growth and innovation programme, Hilla. Firms in the Hilla network can develop products directly for international customers.

– In the Hilla programme, several local companies – which build an offering together – are needed to create a single product or service. One strong, leading company, which already has an international distribution channel, is involved, says Rönkä.

In August, the University of Oulu and Oulu University of Applied Sciences announced the launch of a training programme for developers of printed electronics products. 20 trainees will participate in the first group. Kaisto estimates that printed intelligence companies need a hundred engineers to work on product concepts in the Oulu region alone.

– Although companies are engaged in the design of PI products, engineers are needed to add the finishing touches in particular: how can the products be made cost-effectively and reliably? A hundred engineers are now needed for this.

Printed intelligence already provides work for 300–400 experts in the Oulu region. Kaisto believes that this number will grow to a thousand by 2020. The new sector will be fully under way by then.

​ 

Blood alcohol test based on saliva

Can blood alcohol content be measured in an easier, more cost-effective way than using the current devices? In the autumn of 2012, Petri Särkelä (CEO) and Petteri Närä (Business Developer) of Goodwiller Oy believed so. The Promilless blood alcohol test strip, which is based on printed technology, was launched in June four years later. By then, Teemu Mäkiniemi had joined as Technology Director. Promilless was first launched in Finland, but the company has aimed at the international market from the beginning.

– Marketability has been the number one issue from the outset. Huge business potential can often be found in solving everyday problems. There is a global need for meters like this, says Särkelä.

The men's original brainwave was verified by research at the University of Oulu, which showed that blood alcohol could be measured from saliva. A measuring technique was needed next. The men heard about training on the printed intelligence business at a local start-up incubator (Yritystakomo), and decided to get involved. Perhaps printed technology could form the basis of a functional tool?

– In Pälli training, we got to the brainstorming stage and learned that a blood alcohol test strip made using this technique would be sufficiently cost-effective and, above all, reliable. This was the key issue.

Collaboration with VTT was close, particularly in the early product development stages. The entrepreneurs handled marketing and business planning themselves. Both have extensive experience of research and product development: Särkelä of high-tech in the ICT sector and Närä of the alcoholic beverage industry and industrial commercialisation.

– We have used VTT's laboratory facilities and other equipment to evaluate which production method would be the best solution, comments Särkelä,

PrintoCent's networks, which Goodwiller intends to use during the further development stage, have also been of assistance.

– Since it isn't possible to expand our own staff at the early stage, we have focused on the core issues. We have obtained contacts in the markets and with the right experts from companies in our sector.

 

 

VTT Impulsehttps://www.vttresearch.com/ImpulseVTT Impulse
Business developmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Business-development.aspxBusiness development
Health and wellbeinghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Health-and-wellbeing.aspxHealth and wellbeing
Smart Citieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Smart-Cities.aspxSmart Cities
A birthday gift from us to ourselveshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-birthday-gift-from-us-to-ourselves.aspxA birthday gift from us to ourselves
Could smartglasses replace smartphones? VTT spin-off Dispelix to commercialise a virtual display for glasseshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Could-smartglasses-replace-smartphones-VTT-spin-off-Dispelix-to-commercialise-a-virtual-display-for-glasses.aspxCould smartglasses replace smartphones? VTT spin-off Dispelix to commercialise a virtual display for glasses
Tua Huomo: Energy production and use – smart choices have an impacthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Energy-production-and-use–smart-choices-an-impact.aspxTua Huomo: Energy production and use – smart choices have an impact
LEO brings intelligence to cylindershttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/LEO-brings-intelligence-to-cylinders.aspxLEO brings intelligence to cylinders
S Group believes in a multi-channel modelhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/S-Group-believes-in-a-multi-channel-model.aspxS Group believes in a multi-channel model
Demand for energy storage is growing rapidlyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Demand-for-energy-storage-is-growing-rapidly.aspxDemand for energy storage is growing rapidly
Finland is good investmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Finland-is-good-investment.aspxFinland is good investment
Towards carbon-neutral materialshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Towards-carbon-neutral-materials.aspxTowards carbon-neutral materials
What and how will people eat in the future?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/What-and-how-will-people-eat-in-the-future.aspxWhat and how will people eat in the future?
Recycling of critical metalshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Recycling-of-critical-metals.aspxRecycling of critical metals
At the digital forefront of mininghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/At-the-digital-forefront-of-mining.aspxAt the digital forefront of mining
Smart industryhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Smart-industry.aspxSmart industry
Automation gives packages wingshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Automation-gives-packages-wings.aspxAutomation gives packages wings
A machine is more humanehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-machine-is-more-humane.aspxA machine is more humane
New power for the electronics industryhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/New-power-for-the-electronics-industry.aspxNew power for the electronics industry
Sensor of tomorrowhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Sensor-of-tomorrow.aspxSensor of tomorrow
Bioeconomy and circular economyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Bioeconomy-and-circular-economy.aspxBioeconomy and circular economy
Digital societyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Digital-society.aspxDigital society
Low carbon energyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Low-carbon-energy.aspxLow carbon energy
Finland provides community housing solutions for Namibiahttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Finland-provides-community-housing-solutions-for-Namibia.aspxFinland provides community housing solutions for Namibia
Towards patient-centred, personalised healthcarehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Towards-patient-centred-personalised-healthcare.aspxTowards patient-centred, personalised healthcare
IPR first to international marketshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/IPR-first-to-international-markets.aspxIPR first to international markets
Intelligence for machineshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Intelligence-for-machines.aspxIntelligence for machines
Three-dimensional virtual reality and augmented reality – Towards new worldshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Three-dimensional-virtual-reality-and-augmented-reality-Towards-new-worlds.aspxThree-dimensional virtual reality and augmented reality – Towards new worlds
World in 2030 - answers to tomorrow’s questionshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/World-in-2030-answers-to-tomorrows-questions.aspxWorld in 2030 - answers to tomorrow’s questions
From a fishing port to a model district for smart energyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/From-a-fishing-port-to-a-model-district-for-smart-energy.aspxFrom a fishing port to a model district for smart energy
Using nuclear power to mitigate climate changehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Using-nuclear-power-to-mitigate-climate-change.aspxUsing nuclear power to mitigate climate change
The rise of robotic carshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-rise-of-robotic-cars.aspxThe rise of robotic cars
Pilot plants forge innovative ideas into business activitieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Pilot-plants-forge-innovative-ideas-into-business-activities.aspxPilot plants forge innovative ideas into business activities
All sights on generationhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/All-sights-on-generation.aspxAll sights on generation
Towards bioeconomy with the power of woodhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Towards-bioeconomy-with-the-power-of-wood.aspxTowards bioeconomy with the power of wood
Combinostics: Faster diagnoses with artificial intelligencehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Combinostics-Faster-diagnoses-with-artificial-intelligence.aspxCombinostics: Faster diagnoses with artificial intelligence
Cell screening leads to new cancer treatmentshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Cell-screening-leads-to-new-cancer-treatments.aspxCell screening leads to new cancer treatments
From ideas to major innovationshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/From-drawing-board-to-major-innovation.aspxFrom ideas to major innovations
The story of Finlandhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-story-of-Finland.aspxThe story of Finland
Technology enables good urban livinghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Technology-enables-good-urban-living.aspxTechnology enables good urban living
Matti Apunen: At the core of the solutionhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/At-the-core-of-the-solution.aspxMatti Apunen: At the core of the solution
A future without wastewater?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-future-without-wastewater.aspxA future without wastewater?
Finnish fuel cell technology aims for the worldhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Finnish-fuel-cell-technology-aims-for-the-world.aspxFinnish fuel cell technology aims for the world
Intelligent transport – a trump card for Finnish exportshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Intelligent-transport-a-trump-card-for-Finnish-exports.aspxIntelligent transport – a trump card for Finnish exports
Passion spurs researchhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/passion-spurs-research.aspxPassion spurs research
Converting rags to design clotheshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Converting-rags-to-design-clothes.aspxConverting rags to design clothes
Transition in the shipping industry: intelligent ship´s bridgeshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Intelligent-ship-bridges.aspxTransition in the shipping industry: intelligent ship´s bridges
For Industry powers Finnish manufacturing industryhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/For-Industry-powers-Finnish-manufacturing-industry.aspxFor Industry powers Finnish manufacturing industry
The perfect pilot environment for Arctic solutionshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-perfect-pilot-environment-for-Arctic-solutions.aspxThe perfect pilot environment for Arctic solutions
Quantum standards for the new SI systemhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Quantum-standards-for-the-new-SI-system.aspxQuantum standards for the new SI system