At Sarnoff Corporation in Princeton, NJ, and Columbia University, researchers have succeeded in operating circuits at 100 megahertz -- as much as a hundred times faster than previous ones on plastic. The Sarnoff/Columbia advance could lead to displays measuring three meters or more diagonally that can also be rolled up and easily transported. 10-100 times cheaper than current and lower power requirements and lighter. The core of the technology is a new laser-based process, developed by James Im, a materials science professor at Columbia University, that heats one narrow band of amorphous silicon at a time. This process makes well-aligned crystals that let electrons move quickly, allowing for the higher processing speeds. Researchers at Sarnoff helped adapt this process for use with a plastic substrate. For example, they introduced special barriers that spread out the heat from the laser, preventing the plastic from deforming. (pd2 ranked impact) 1-4 years to roll out of the lab.
This capability will eventually enhance the pre-nanofactory tech for desktop manufacturing as well as rapid prototyping and increasing the range of rapid parts customization etc... that could be used to speed and increase the flexibility of larger scale production.
Current printable electronics are still far from delivering the reliability and performance of traditional circuitry, the printable-electronics technology could eventually be incorporated into a 3-D printer. But the Sarnoff development will go a long way to reducing that limitation.