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Novel Applications for Print Technologies Provide High Growth Opportunities

September 2, 2009
LEATHERHEAD, UK—September 2, 2009—Printed RFID, OLED displays and printed photovoltaics offer the greatest long-term opportunity for print equipment manufacturers, raw material suppliers and printers, according to a new study by Pira International.

Based on primary research and expert analysis, Novel Applications for Printing Technologies takes an in-depth look at novel printing methods and potential markets over the next 10–15 years. This brand new report forecasts global markets for the latest technologies, including printed electronics, biomedical applications, 3-D visualisation and printing, food printing, printed textiles and nano-printing.

For this study a novel printing application is defined as the use of a recognisable printing process to produce a product outside the normal remit of commercial and industrial printing and packaging companies.

In total, hundreds of novel applications were identified, screened and assessed, and the top 32 were selected and profiled in depth in this major new study. The opportunities were evaluated on a scorecard that measured of attractiveness of the novel sector, the potential size of the market, the skills and requirements for printers to join, and the entry barriers.

The study finds that tag applicators will dominate the printed RFID sector until 2012, when online printing on presses will be common as costs fall. Applicator unit or additional print units by 2012 will be common. Cost reduction will be necessary for take-up.

Adoption of printed RFID has been slower than many predicted. RFID uses tags to receive and transmit radio signals to readers or interrogators. Active tags have a power source, typically a battery, and are expensive. Passive tags receive power from the radio waves, they are much cheaper and offer the greatest opportunities for printed RFID in the near future. RFID offers great improvements in logistics and only cost is holding it back. The readers are expensive but the tags are the crucial cost. Barcodes are effectively free and trillions of products are barcoded. A cost of $0.01 per tag will add billions of dollars to the logistics process. Printed RFID reduces tag costs. Printed RFID tags introduced in highvalue sectors will help take-up in more mainstream sectors.

By 2020 OLED displays will be a viable alternative to paper for books, newspapers and magazines. Clean rooms will be one of the requirements of success, according to the study. E-readers and public displays will grow on trains, buses and transport stops, plus retailers and public areas; attracting advertising and promotional revenue.

Manufacturers are looking for inexpensive ways to produce bigger OLED displays on flexible substrates to use as room lighting. OLED TV displays with 40in diagonal screens have been introduced but movie screens are some way off. Current concepts for largearea OLEDs have reached the limit of manufacturing and quality. Printed OLEDs could be the solution. OLED displays are more energy-efficient than liquid crystal displays (LCDs), which require a backlight, especially when the image content is largely dark areas, often the case with movies. OLEDs offer sharper contrast than a conventional backlit LCD and achieve contrast levels of up to 1 million to 1. With no need for a backlight, they can be made very thin. Manufacturers have already introduced OLED screens that are 3mm thick.
 

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