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Medical and pharmaceuticals: From patient tracking to smart drug packaging

From ultra-flexible body function trackers, that are simply strapped on, to interactive drug packaging: The medical and pharmaceutical industry is among those sectors that are providing particularly strong impetus for the ongoing development of printed electronics.

In the medical world, printed electronics solutions are currently enabling increasing flexibility in determining and controlling important measured values. These include, for example, printed diagnostic sensors in the form of compact disposable wristbands, measuring strips or ultra-thin electrodes that are simply attached to the body.

A first example of the fact that there are also opportunities for end consumer products in this area, are special children's thermometers. They continuously record the body temperature, which is then transmitted to and displayed on the parents’ smartphone. A flexible labor contraction sensor that is simply worn on the belly without any fixing and detects all contractions is also already available.

In the related health and wellness sector, flexible displays are currently used to expand the functionality of body function trackers for the leisure segment and smartwatches.

In addition, printed electronics enable patient clothing to be equipped with monitoring functionalities. First functional shirts with integrated sensors assuming various control functions are already available. The next level will be clinic dresses that quickly and easily allow continuous monitoring of all important body parameters or automatically regulate heat.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers can use multifunctional electronic labels printed on the packaging to help prevent drug counterfeiting. Thanks to imprinted NFC labels, individual packages or complete batches can be identified digitally at all times throughout the entire production and use cycle.

In addition, labels can also remind patients to take the next tablet, allowing manufacturers to support correct dosage and thus the best possible effect of their preparations. Due to the strict liability situation, real products of comparable nature are expected to first appear in the sports and leisure sector.

Last but not least, printed lights and lighting elements, so-called OLEDs, are also increasingly finding their way into medicine. Thanks to their enormous flexibility, they open up new possibilities in light therapy, for example.