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Predictions for Growth in Printed Electronics Applications in 2011

January 4, 2011
In this article, we examine what to expect for 2011. To do that, we must understand the spectacular successes of the recent past as well as the failures. This has often been an industry with poor business planning and marketing.

For example, in e-readers, Plastic Logic belatedly realized it could not meet Apple and Amazon head on and it said it would create a professional sector, but such a niche may never exist. It failed to launch a product anyway.

Those developing printed organic and inorganic flexible solar cells, most of which had life of no more than five years, obsessed about replacing power stations by meeting “grid parity” efficiency when the potential lay in consumer goods, military, healthcare and media.

Lessons from failure

Frequently, participants tried to run before they could walk, or at least chose objectives that were too ambitious for the level of investment available. For example, Microemissive Displays, OLED-T and many other Organic Light Emitting Display companies are no more. Those making printed antennas and keyboards prospered.

Some have simply failed to meet the price-performance points necessary for market entry. For example, no one has taken a meaningful order for the long-promised printed organic transistors, despite transistors being the engine of most electronics. That has had a severe knock on effect. For example, the printed organic memory of Thin Film Electronics AB and many printed sensors cannot fulfill their primary market potential without them.

Lessons from success

There are important lessons from the recent successes too. The Amazon Kindle e-reader is the antidote to phones and computers we cannot read in sunshine. It is partly printed with an excellent route to further weight and cost reduction using more printing. It replaces books.

The Apple iPad is not killing the Kindle because it is not simply an e-reader and it is in color. You need a spectacularly better product in the eyes of potential users to compete effectively with either of these powerful global brands with their unsurpassed routes to market. An example would be a color e-readers tightly rolled into your mobile phone, but no such product is in prospect for 2011.

Historical event - replacing silicon chips

Certain small orders for printed and partly printed electronics in 2010 were of deep significance. For example, the Kovio order for disposable electronic train tickets in Los Angeles saw formidable printed nano silicon electronics in the form of over 1,000 transistors printed by inkjet and screen printing onto stainless steel foil. Being compatible with the world's most popular RFID specification ISO 14443, which was designed for silicon chips, this analog-digital circuit was a tour de force announcing to the world that a huge variety of the simpler integrated circuits can now be replaced by lower cost, more flexible and more robust printing ,albeit on stainless steel foil because of the high temperature anneal currently required.
 

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