The latest fashion in miniature computing is to print out computer components on stickers. Yes, like those stickers of fruit, smiley faces, or stars that you used to play with as a kid. The reasoning behind this is to make limited, disposable computers that will be able to perform very specific functions. Like what, you ask? Well, like to determine food spoilage. A sticker computer would be able to track temperature on food products throughout packaging and shipping so that products can be guaranteed fresh. If spoilage is detected, the contributing factors can be tracked down and the system improved in the future. These sticker computers should cost tens of cents due to the ability to print large numbers of them quickly and would replace some types of non-computing sensors that perform similar functions.
This venture is being headed by Xerox also using the talents of Norwegian based Thin Film Electronics to bring printed computing to life. Some of the benefits of printed electronics over traditional silicon electronics include the ability to roll and bend devices without them breaking. This would include bendable video screens and wearable computers. The inflexibility of computers today has us using little boxy devices with flat surfaces. Unfortunately, most objects that we commonly use simply aren’t flat and boxy. When incorporating computers into these types of devices, it would be far easier and more aesthetically pleasing to be able to be able to make the computer fit into an available area without changing the look of whatever it is that you are using. Toys would benefit from this type of design while utensils, clothes and tools would also. Just about anything that has a specific design that would be better without having a little box attached to it could also use this type of printed computer. It is certain that printed computers will make incorporating computing into specialized applications easier and allow expanded functionality in other small computing applications currently in use.