The research, conducted by Pivotal Resources, presents an overview of new technologies and applications emphasizing the applicability of these emerging fields to commercial printers and printing industry suppliers. The study includes printed electronics and displays, 3D printing and biomedical printing, as well as 2D barcodes and security printing; nanotechnology also is explored.
Offering possibilities for new revenue streams, each of these emerging printing technologies is generating great interest. Through this study PRIMIR sought to better understand each and identify which are, or could soon be, commercially viable in the printing industry.
According to the PRIMIR study, the areas with the most direct impact on the commercial printing industry are security printing, barcodes, 3D printing and nanotechnology. While well known in the graphic communications industry, security printing is changing due to the increasing sophistication of criminals and number of threats – and burgeoning use in brand protection.
The most important changes in security printing involve automation and techniques for brand protection that are not easily duplicated. The most significant advances in security printing are in the areas of biometrics, unique and difficult-to-reproduce inks, advanced substrates, and 2D barcoding.
The study noted that in printed electronics, with offset, gravure, screen, inkjet and flexography used to manufacture electronic circuits some components, especially conductors, are now being printed. However, the commercial printing of complete circuits remains elusive, but has achieved some success in the laboratory and in pilot scale operations. Today, forecasters expect that in 10 years, the printed electronics market may grow to approximately $20 billion.
The first fully printed electronic products will likely be display backplanes, which will combine with today’s printed (but not electronic) frontplanes to form a fully printed device. Opportunity, however, would primarily exist in fluids (ink) formulations and substrates.
Even with tremendous hype surrounding 3D printing, the research found limited commercial use primarily due to speed limitations and relatively high cost; neither of which appeal to commercial manufacturers. With a $6 billion global forecast for 3D printing by 2019, graphic communications companies may be able to leverage the interest level and pursue offering 3D printing using inkjet—but the study cautions there is a unique learning curve for firms pursuing this product offering.
The comprehensive 339-page PRIMIR research report, “Emerging Printing Technologies & Applications,” covers each technology in-depth providing insights into the opportunities and the growth potential for each.