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Predictions for Growth in Printed Electronics Applications in 2011

January 4, 2011


Equally significant was Dai Nippon Printing in Japan taking its first orders for multifunctional posters on the Tokyo Metro incorporating printed animated OLED and ac electroluminescent technology powered by printed organic photovoltaics. In addition, trials by Toppan Forms in Japan of interactive posters have been successful. These involved sound, activated by touching, printed ac electroluminescent and electrophoretic displays and printed organic photovoltaics for power.

At a stroke, the world's existing posters, packaging and point of display material are rendered boring, relatively ineffective and an embarrassment. It is equivalent to the arrival of television: if you just make radios watch out.


2010 also saw the U.S. Air Force committing very serious money to vehicles made possible by flexible photovoltaics, notably unmanned upper atmosphere surveillance aircraft and dirgibles covered with the stuff. One order exceeded $500 million. The benefits include light weight and flexibility. You do not put glass sheets on a balloon.


Much smaller sums were committed to buying printed electronic products for healthcare, with ongoing business in electronic tamper evidence and entirely printed electric skin patches. However, in the background, a great deal of work was going on to develop electronic healthcare disposables for testing and drug administration.


All of which brings us to 2011. Many companies that have got the message of starting with the easier printed electronics will launch simple devices based on printed diodes and conductive patterns etc. The old idea of printing a transparent conductive layer not with expensive, clever chemicals but with fine metal patterns will re-emerge and gain first major orders. Simple ink stripe RFID using low cost printed metals will gain market share. Printable copper inks will start to sell well. Novacentrix Pulseforge, which anneals high temperature electronic inks on low temperature substrates, will be widely deployed.

Expect one of the new electric cars to incorporate largely printed ceiling and dashboard control clusters saving 10 to 40 percent of cost, weight and space in 2011 and improving reliability and weather proofing. Less certain is whether the lowest cost printed displays, the electrochromic ones, will overcome barriers to major market entry. Some of our clients cite unappealing appearance and lack of low cost drive circuits. The limited life is not a problem for most envisaged applications. 

Of course, lifetime is of great importance in many potential applications of printed electronics and the 2-3 years of printed organic photovoltaics and five years for DSSC photovoltaics will be inadequate in some cases.

For example, car companies and the military demand 15 years, and 20 years are needed for photovoltaics on houses or ships. Enter flexible printed copper indium gallium diselenide CIGS photovoltaics where Nanosolar and maybe others will make first major deliveries in 2011. Lifetime of these initial products are unclear as yet but long life is in prospect.

Equally desirable is transparent flexible printed electronics demanded by all market sectors. The kingpins here will be the commercialisation of transparent photovoltaics, transistor circuits and batteries but, unfortunately, these are unlikely to be in major production by the end of 2011.

The tiny number of imaginative product designers familiar with printed electronics will continue to spring surprises. Expect yet more animated and interactive paper magazines in the tradition of the E-ink Esquire edition in 2008 and the color LCD with sound in an edition of Entertainment Age in 2009. We shall certainly see printed electronics in more toys, novelties, apparel and healthcare disposables.

The annual IDTechEx event Printed Electronics Europe—which will be held in Dusseldorf, Germany on April 5-6, will cover all these topics. In particular, the event features Demonstration Street—where you can see working printed electronics products in action. Register now and save with the early bird rate—visit

By Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx.



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