Printed Electronics Roadmap Leads in New Directions

Samsung Electronics of South Korea had approximately $132 billion in sales in 2010 and it is prioritizing printed electronics for the future, its commitment extending to making its required materials, production machines and components and manufacturing complete products based on this new and versatile technology.

Panasonic of Japan, a company of similar size, is also seeking to deploy electronic printing much more widely. It is seen as an enabling technology that is already cost reducing their electronic and electrical products. Today’s examples include the filter and liquid crystal layers in LCDs and of course antennas, flexible keyboards and so on.

Inkjet printing is being rapidly deployed for printing electrodes on solar cells, where non-contact deposition is desired because the ever thinning solar cells become more fragile. In the future, we have the prospect of flexible color e-readers and television sets and even the printing of large lithium-ion traction batteries for the booming electric vehicle market. This is therefore as much about electrics as electronics and we only call it printed electronics for brevity.

The roadmaps were wrong
Earlier roadmaps for printed electronics have been almost entirely erroneous. It is not primarily about cost reduction, nor is there a trend towards organic versions taking over most applications. It is no longer focussed mainly on improving existing products. It targets doing what was previously impossible to create radically different consumer propositions.

For example, Nokia of Finland is about to make announcements concerning its work on stretchable printed electronics. Consumer goods companies see a next level of retailing involving far more noticeable, appealing and informative human interfaces provided by printed electronics. These will appeal to more of the human senses. Examples include Mars Inc., the world’s largest petfood company, which is also a leader in human foods, and Metro Group of Germany is one of the largest supermarket chains in the world.

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