Printed Electronics USA 2006 Showcases Advances, Potential

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 01.05.07

The field of printed electronics is fast becoming an area of interest for many companies large and small alike.

The field of printed electronics is fast becoming an area of interest for many companies large and small alike. IDTechEx, the leading consultants in the field, places the market as potentially a $300 billion field, encompassing segments ranging from item-level tagging to lighting, sensors, displays and so much more.

With that in mind, Printed Electronics USA 2006, IDTechEx’s latest conference covering the remarkable changes in the field of printed electronics, was held Dec. 5-6 at the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix, AZ. The conference, which drew more than 250 attendees, provided a look at what is currently occurring in the field as well as a glimpse into its potential applications.

Day One

The first day began with  a  discussion on “A Revolution in Display Technology: Electroluminescence & Real Life Applications,” by Chris Fryer, CTO of Pelikon and John Solgat, new business development manager, Memtron Input Components. They showcased membrane switch applications such as remotes, microwave ovens and hospital monitors where printed electronics can make life much more simple and cost-effective by hiding unneeded keys.
They were followed by Dr. Darrel Hopper, Air Force Research Laboratory, who discussed the military’s need for “Flexible Electronics for Military Applications.” He stressed the importance of being able to embed electronics into equipment such as blankets to save on space, as well as improving displays for aircraft.
Mitchell Shinozaki, president Toppan Forms Co. Ltd., discussed “Playing in the New Game of Smart Media.” Mr. Shinozaki detailed the remarkable progress being made by Toppan Forms in Japan, including the work being done with the Tokyo transportation system cards that can also be used for shopping and vending, adding that printed electronics “does not spell doomsday for print companies, and showcased what a future shop, office and airport might look like.
The opening session closed with Peter Herdman, exploratory research manager, ArjoWiggins, who discussed “Augmented Paper.”
“Paper has evolved over 2,000 years and is optimized for human interaction,” Mr. Herdman said. “I want to make paper better.” To that end, Mr. Herdman discussed creating conductive patterns within the paper, using as an example the festival program for the Edinburgh Fringe, a month-long festival with 27,000 performances held in Scotland that used an interactive program.
After a break which allowed attendees to check out the more than 20 tabletop exhibits, the session continued with “RFID in Mobile Phone Manufacturing,” given by David Lu, new technology manager Nokia, who noted the advantages of RFID being wireless, low cost and offering a permanent ID and discussed potential applications.  
Wolfgang Mildner, managing director, PolyIC GmbH & Co KG, then discussed “Printed RFID - From a Vision to Production.” “Printed electronics brings together the printing and electronics industries, as well as chemical industry,” Mr. Mildner noted. “Our vision is to make printed electronics thinner, flexible, inexpensive and simple, pervasive and disposable. Printed electronics is not just a vision anymore.”
PolyIC recently successfully printed circuits on a roll to roll system.
Stuart M. Evans, vice chairman of Plastic Logic Ltd., closed the session with “The Seven Laws of Plastic Electronics and Why They Matter.”

After lunch, the focus turned to thin film transistor circuits, beginning with “Reconfigurable Carbon Nanotube Switch” by Ji ung Lee, Senior Research Scientist General Electrics – Global Research;  “Printed Electronics with High Performance Solution Processed Nanocomposite Gate Insulator” by Dr. Jad Rasul, Motorola Inc.; and “Solution-Based Processing of Inorganic Oxide Electronics,” presented by  Dr.  Doug Keszler, Oregon State University.

“Developments in Printed RFID Tags,” by Klaus Dimmler, CEO/president OrganicID Inc., followed. Mr. Dimmler spoke of the advantages of item level RFID, such as providing the ability to watch the product from cradle to grave,  automating inventory control and checkout and providing instant marketing information.

“There are a lot of things that need to come together, the most important being cost,” Mr. Dimmler said.
 Andrew Ferber, vice chairman, T-Ink, Inc., detailed his company’s growth from novelty items to functional products in “Printed Electronics: Not Just Fun and Games.” In the past year, T-Ink has created products for items ranging from McDonald’s Happy Meals and Playtex Sippy Cups to transportation and textiles. “It’s all about creating and marrying technologies,” Mr. Ferber said.
The first day closed with a program on “Investing in Printed Electronics,” featuring a panel of venture capital firms and new businesses stating their case for funding. On hand to listen were Emily Selene de Rotstein, vice president of marketing for Aveso as well as  Dow Venture Capital; Subra Narayan, director venture capital for Kodak; Darren Budd, investment manager, BASF Venture Capital, and Ken Ehrhart, general partner, SunBridge Partners.
Companies that stated their case included Outrider Technologies, Nanomas, Thin Battery Technologies, NXT and Aveso.

Track One: Displays, Sensors and Lighting

The second day was broken up into concurrent sessions. Track One, a look at displays, sensors and lighting and sound and power, began with “Flexible Active Matrix Backplane Technology Development in a Pilot Line Manufacturing Environment,” by Gregory Raupp, director, Arizona State University;  “A Short Review of the Flexible Displays & Electronics Activities in the UK,” by Ric Allott, deputy network director, UK Displays & Lighting Network; “Prospect of Ink-Jettable Electronics & Displays: The Design Guide in Real Fabrication” by Dr. Kevin Cheng, manager for ITRI.
After the break, talks began with  “Flexible Display Technology,” given by Dr. Steven Droes, member of technical staff, Sharp Laboratories of America Inc.;  “Sensors and Lighting,” by Nanoident CEO Klaus Schroeter; and “Emerging Field for Thin Flexible Power Sources,” by Dr. Bertrand Fillon of CEA.
After lunch, Track One continued with “Recent Developments in Ultra Thin Form Factor Sound Solutions for Smart-Packaging and other Printed Electronics Applications,” presented by Geoff Boyd, new business development manager, NXT Technology. Mr. Boyd showcased the company’s printed speakers, a promising application.
“We need to take printed electronics to places where the incumbents can’t go,” Mr. Boyd said.
Dr. Peter Harrop, IDTechEX chairman, then discussed “How Smart Skin Patches are Using Printed Electronics,” an interesting possibility in which doses can be delivered at a set time through a patch, which also will monitor the patient’s condition. The technology is also already being used for cosmetics, and Dr. Harrop forecasted it could grow to a $10 billion market by 2017.Steve Leach, CEO of NovaCentrix, closed Track One with “Printed Electronics: High Performance in a Flash.”

Track Two: Materials

Track Two featured Materials, starting off with “Printed RFID Antenna: The Low Cost High Speed Route to RFID Labels” by Richard Morris, sales manager, Parelec, Inc., followed by “Nanoscale Platelet Silver Particles for Printed Electronic Applications” by Gregg Berube, materials development manager, NanoDynamics Inc.   
Dr. Wilfried Lovenich, R&D chemist for H C Starck GmbH, discussed “Tailoring Baytron P [PEDOT/PSS] for the Production of Highly Conductive Transparent Films.” He was followed by Robert Miller, business development manager – materials at EMD Chemicals, whose topic was “Organic Semiconductors: Ready for Prime Time;” and Dr Rui-Qing Ma, product manager for Honeywell, whose talk was “Perspectives on Materials for Printed Electronics.” John Stewart, marketing manager, DuPont Teijin Films, closed the morning session with a talk on “Latest Developments in PET and PEN Films for Flexible Electronics.”
After lunch, Mel Mehta, regional sales manager for Ferro Corporation, discussed “Materials for High Performance, Low Temperature Printed Conductors.”  He was followed by “Intelligent Printing System for Material Deposition and Fluid Development,” by Dr. Linda Creagh, business development director, materials deposition division,  Dimatix, Inc.; “Reactive Transfer Films Synthesis: a Novel Method for Advanced Coating Production,” by Dr. B.J. Stanbery, CEO of Heliovolt Corp.; and the conference closed with “Combining Printing and Thin Film Silicon Technology,” presented by Dietmar Knipp, researcher International University Bremen, Germany.

Reactions to the Conference

Attendees and organizers alike said they were pleased with the conference.     
“We are seeing some new faces, and companies are making more announcements, “ said Dan Lawrence, IDTechEX’s vice president, business development in North America. “The industry as a whole continues to grow and mature, and people are networking and making connections, which is essential as no one company is going to make everything happen, and partnerships are critical.”
Dr. Harrop noted that interest in printed electronics is quickly growing, and new applications are appearing.
“We have done these programs now for three years, and it is growing,” Dr. Harrop said. The printing industry is hungry the electronics industry is looking for new technologies and The chemical industry could make a fortune. What has changed is that these three industries are working on new technologies, and we now have packaging and allied industries involved. Now it has gone from a dreamer’s conference to commercialization.”