Printing Impressions

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Printed Electronics Becoming More Relevant to Our Market Segments

February 17, 2012
Printed Electronics is on the verge of becoming a relevant technology for several of our market segments. Organic LEDs, flexible displays, RFID tags, printed discrete devices, as well as printed photovoltaic devices, are making an impact in consumer, commercial and specialty electronics markets.

One of the most important benefits of this emerging field is the use of printing technologies for low-cost volume fabrication of electronic products. In addition, the ability to print on flexible substrates allows for placement of electronics on curved surfaces, for example, placing solar modules on vehicle roofs. Conventional semiconductors justify their much higher costs by providing much higher performance. Conversely, printed electronics is being promoted as a lower-cost technology that provides greater product design freedom.

NPES is working with Dan Gamota, Printovate Technologies, Inc., and IPC the Association Connecting Electronics Industries, to develop and shape the emerging field of printed electronics. According to IDTechEx, a provider of market research in printed electronics, RFID, thin film photovoltaics and smart packaging, the global market for printed electronics this year is $2.2 billion. By 2021 it is predicted that the market will be worth $44.25 billion, with 56% of products printed and 43% on flexible substrates.

In December 2011, NPES President Ralph Nappi attended the Printed Electronics & Photovoltaics USA 2011 trade show in Santa Clara, CA. The following are just a few examples of working technology, some of which are printed and flexible, that were showcased there:

• Rollable E-paper Display
The most prominent commercial success has clearly been e-paper, which has been in use for e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook. That market has tripled every year since 2006 and now accounts for $180 million in sales. IDTechEx forecasts that worldwide e-reader sales will top $2.1 billion by 2017.

PolymerVision showcased their truly rollable display capable of showing animated images. This is good news for printed electronics since flexible displays could provide a platform for a plethora of printed components, enabling large new markets.

• Replacement for Touchscreens
A resistive touchscreen panel made with Kodak transparent conductive film and featuring completely invisible conductive patterns was demonstrated for the first time at PEUSA 2011. It was built using conventional printing processes, including UV-cured and heat-processed inks. A variety of films and formulations have been used to create a touchscreen that provides superior performance, flexibility, stability, transparency, neutral color, and low haze at an economical price. New technologies such as this are expected to capture up to 20 percent of the touchscreen market.
 

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