Printed Electronics Market is on the Rise

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 01.03.08

Printed Electronics USA 07 showcased many of the new technologies that are driving the growth of printed electronics.

There are plenty of good reasons for the dramatic rise in interest in printed electronics. Market
research by IDTechEx suggests that the market for printed electronics, encompassing areas as diverse as transistors, RFID tags, photovoltaics and OLED displays, among others, accounted for $1.7 billion in sales in 2007, and may reach $300 billion in 20 years.
Even if one thinks that such an estimate is on the high side, consider that if the sales of printed electronics reach even half of that $300 billion, that will be a sizable market.
With that in mind, IDTechEx hosted Printed Electronics USA 07,  held in San Francisco, CA, from Nov. 12-15. A total of 557 delegates and 50 exhibitors were present to hear 75 presentations by industry leaders.
“It has exceeded our expectations by quite a large margin,” said Dr. Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx. “We spent 20 years in the wilderness, and we now see a lot of projects flooding out into the market. We are taking the pulse on an industry that is doubling.”
The opening session of the conference showcased the capabilities and promise of printed electronics. Dr. Harrop opened the conference with a talk on “The Global Market for Printed Electronics.”
Dr. Harrop cited the tremendous growth potential of the industry, as witnessed by his estimate that there are 1,500 organizations worldwide doing work on printed electronics, broken down to 50 percent business and 50 percent academic. It is an international business: Dr. Harrop said of these 1,500 organizations, 500 organizations are in North America (62 percent of which are non-academic), as well as 550 organizations in Europe and 400 in Asia.
Dr. Harrop broke down the present market for printed electronics. He estimated that photovoltaics are a $1.3 billion business, with displays and lighting having $1 billion in sales.
The companies that are involved in the market range from international businesses such as Eastman Kodak, DuPont, Hewlett Packard, BASF, Siemens, Philips and Motorola to start-ups.
The wide scope of the industry was borne out by the following presentations.  Kovio, which came out of MIT, announced it had just created world’s first printed silicon transistor
“Our focus is to bring intelligence into everyday things,” said Amir Mashkoori, CEO of Kovio. “We see the Internet as the backbone of item level intelligence.”
Mr. Mashkoori spoke of the advantages of printed silicon, which costs less for capital expenses, cycle time, material cost, substrate, working capital and integration.
“Printed silicon will make it easy and affordable for our customers to build intelligence into all their products,” Mr. Mashkoori added.
Andrew Ferber, chairman of T-Ink, showcased his company’s unique products. He noted that T-Ink has made 100 million toys for McDonald’s, Playtex sippy cups that make sounds, and 1.5 million Clue FX games. The company also developed the  Kent cigarette box that lights up, which received 2007 Innovation Award from Paperboard Packaging Council, as well as the U.S. Open badge, which allowed attendees to listen to radio play-by-play. Most recently, T-Ink developed Thermo Logic heated hats and clothes for Sears’ Craftsman  line, which sold out fairly quickly.            “We’re very excited about where this industry is headed,” Mr. Ferber said.
Mr. Ferber was followed by Walt Bonneau Jr., senior executive vice president of Cubic Transportation Systems, who detailed RFID’s growth in transit. He noted that Atlanta’s tickets are now contact-less smart cards, and the city’s captured revenues jumped 20 percent. Mr. Bonneau added that a conventional RFID ticket costs 22 cents, while printed RFID costs 9 cents.
He also focused on the idea of Transit Mini Cities, which couple transit, retail, housing and services around a strategically located transit station, with smart cards offering easy access to the transit system and offering promotions for retail.
Mr. Bonneau was followed by presentations by Samsung and LG Philips citing the potential for all-printed flexible displays and organic thin film transistors, respectively.
From that point, the conference broke into concurrent sessions, with companies such as Nokia, Soligie, PakSense, Motorola and elumin8  heading track one, and ORFID, Polyera, PolyIC, Thin Film Electronics and HelioVolt headlining the second track.
In particular, Matthew Timm, president of Soligie, spoke of the digital revolution, and the collision between media, device and format, as can be seen in PDAs, Ipods and Webkinz teddy bears, to name a few.
“Printed electronics is not a product, but is an enabler and potentially an explosive market,” Mr. Timm said.
The second day featured three tracks. Track One, Displays and Lighting, included talks by Cambridge Display Technology, Eastman Kodak, NTERA Limited, Plastic Logic, Add-Vision, SiPix Imaging, USDC, Quantum Paper, Arizona State University, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, MicroEmissive Displays and iSuppli.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland presented a talk on “Printed Large Area OLED Lighting,” highlighting the potential use of gravure for processing the OLEDs.
“It has been proven that gravure printing is a potential technique for processing OLEDs for general lighting applications,” said Markus Tuomikoski, team leader, optoelectronic components for VTT.

Track Two covered two topics. The first, Photovoltaics and Batteries, was led by talks by Plextronics, Konarka Technologies, Solarmer Energy and Enfucell. The second subject, Materials and Handling,  featured presentations by consultant Alan Hodsgon, Sun Chemical, BASF Future Business GmbH, H.C. Starck, Merck Chemicals, Unidym, NovaCentrix and Agfa-Gevaert.

Among the highlights was Sun Chemical’s Dr. Philippe Schottland, who noted that his company has developed flexible silver screen ink, flexible UV dielectric ink and Aqualine silver-based flexo ink for the market.
“Printed electronics will be a huge market, and we see that as a very interesting opportunity for us,” Dr. Schottland said.

Track Three began with a segment on Sensors and Sound, featuring presentations by Artificial Muscle, NXT Technology, BioIdent Technologies, the Organic Electronics Association, University of California, Berkeley and Lumoflex/Georgia Institute of Technology.
Artificial Muscle’s co-founder Marcus Rosenthal detailed the company’s work on printed actuators, sensors and generators.  Geoff Boyd, new business development director for NXT, discussed “New Sound Enabling Technologies for Printed  Electronics,” showcasing speakers for greeting cards among other applications.
“Applications include smart packaging, labels, self-authentication ID cards, greeting cards and novelties, newspaper and book inserts,” Mr. Boyd said.
BioIdent Technologies CEO Dr. Wasiq Bokhari showcased the company’s Lab-on-a-Chip sensors, enabling for the first time mobile analytics and diagnostics at the point of use. Dr. Bokhari said the chip will be able to be read by a PDA, rather than being shipped out to a lab, thus giving readings at a fraction of the cost and time. He added that one chip can perform up to 147 diagnostic tests.
Track Three's afternoon segment, Manufacturing, included talks by Beltronics, Stanford University, ImageXpert, FUJIFILM Dimatix, PixDro and Optomec.

All in all, there is much optimism surrounding the world of printed electronics, as new applications are quickly being developed.
“Printed electronics does not substitute for standard electronics,” said Dr. Wolfgang Clemens, head of applications for PolyIC. “It opens a whole new world.”
“Applications for smart labels are limited only by imagination,” said Kaz Lawler, vice president, customer and technical services for PakSense.