Thursday, January 7, 2010

Printed Electronics, a High-growth Future

Early in December 2009, I attended Printed Electronics USA 09 sponsored by IDTechEx.

Held in the San Jose Convention Center, the printed electronics show was touted by the sponsor as the largest event on the topic in the U.S.

A review of the printed electronics market showed lots of healthy growth statistics. IDTechEx’s CEO, Raghu Das, who unfortunately fainted on the stage as a result of flu, presented impressive numbers for printed electronics in 2010. For example, the market for organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) will reach $900 million, photovoltaics will reach $400 million, inks will extend to $400 million, sensors come to $120 million, and electronic paper will stand at $100 million this year, according to his figures.

Peter Harrop, IDTechExpo chairman, finished up the talk as Das recovered. Some of the leading drivers to supporting high growth in the industry are not low cost so much as form factor, he stated, since flexible substrates fit well in smaller devices. Even with flex substrates and barrier films, though, there are basic challenges such as water and oxygen contamination. Progress continues with E-paper displays, point of purchase displays, organic electroluminescent displays, thin film photovoltaic products, and in other areas.

Ken McGuire, principal scientist at Proctor and Gamble, talked about consumer electronics applications and why printed electronics is important to P&G. As an $80 billon consumer products company, P&G looks for ways to differentiate their products from others on the shelf. Before considering printed electronics as one of these methods, each must be evaluated for low cost, rugged survivability though the delivery chain, eco-friendliness, and usefulness. I had to imagine what that might look like — a large, orange container of Tide glowing, blinking, or somehow acquiring a printed-electronics-driven advantage on the shelf at the local Kroger store here in Cincinnati. McGuire invited the audience to discuss how P&G could use printed electronics creatively as a marketing tool, and the response was enthusiastic.

It was a really exciting show that brought back the foment and creativity that the SMT industry saw in the 1980s. Approximately 900 attendees, representing more than 25% growth from the previous year, enjoyed the Printed Electronics USA show this year. There were 85 exhibitors, 100 speakers, 8 tutorials, a tour at Applied Materials and a demo at Kovio’s plant. Some exhibitors brought new product introductions to the floor, such as Novacentrix’s PulseForge 3100, which is effective with widely used print methods including inkjet, flexo, gravure, aerosol, and screen printing. Fujifilm Dimatix won the show’s commercialization award for its inkjet printer platform, DMP-2800. So far 450 of these printers have been sold worldwide for printed electronics.

Visit the IDTechEX Website for more information:

Gail Flower, editor at large

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