End-Users Highlight Potential Of Printed Electronics at PE Europe 2010

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 05.11.10

There are clear signs that both the technical innovations and commercial possibilities that are the keys to PE's future are continuing to move forward

End-Users Highlight Potential Of Printed Electronics at PE Europe 2010

There are clear signs that both the technical innovations and commercial possibilities that are the keys to PE’s future are continuing to move forward

By David Savastano, Editor

One key to the future of printed electronics (PE) is the new technologies that are being developed at start-up companies, large corporations and universities. However, another critical aspect is the ability to bring these innovations to commercialization.

There are clear signs that both the technical innovations and commercial possibilities are continuing to move forward, as seen at Printed Electronics & Photovoltaics Europe 2010.

The conference, which was held April 13-14 in Dresden, Germany and held by IDTechEx, offered a wide gamut of topics covering the major fields, including PE design, displays and lighting, sensors, photovoltaics (PV) and production, as well as raw material and manufacturing advances.

The exhibit hall at PE Europe 2010 was active.
A sign that the PE field continues to draw significant interest can be see as attendance figures reached approximately 900 people, an increase of 20 percent over last year’s PE Europe program, also held in Dresden.

One of the major aspects of this conference was found in the potential end-users of PE technology. Among the companies that presented were Nokia, Procter & Gamble, Electrolux Italia, Total, ST Ericcson, Sharp, Kimberly-Clark and the U.S. military. IDTechEx estimated that the companies that presented have combined revenue of nearly $380 billion.

There were numerous highlights from the talks. For example, Dr. Chris Bower, principal scientist at Nokia, noted that his company is collaborating with University of Cambridge on nanotechnology solutions for its Morph concept, a thin, transparent and stretchable cell phone.

Dr. Bower noted that there are important characteristics for the Morph system. Functional surface materials must provide toughness, color changing capabilities and transparency. The materials must be compliant and stretchable, with the electronics likely utilizing zinc oxide or carbon nanotubes. The Morph also requires integrated sensors, energy efficient computing, an energy solution (most likely a flexible battery that offers faster charging times), and integration and customization through roll-to-roll processing.

“Nanotechnology enables stretchable, transformable structures,” Dr. Bower noted.
Dr. Marc Vermeersch, head of department solar and new energies at TOTAL S.A. - Gas & Power, focused on energy, particularly the partnership between Konarka, an organic photovoltaic (OPV) specialist, and Total, which owns 24 percent of Konarka.

“OPV is a very young technology, and it is a major disruptive innovation for this decade,” Vermeersch noted. “The main issues for OPV are lifetime and efficiency. To me, it is a very flexible technology, can be colored or transparent, it is flexible and lightweight and adapted to shapes and sizes. There is an abundant supply of raw materials, and has the potential for mass fabrication at low cost and efficiency.”

Dr. Kenneth McGuire, principal scientist, Procter & Gamble, looked at PE from the perspective of a huge consumer products goods company, noting that the company has 24 billion dollar brands and15 half-billion brands, and had sales totaling $79 billion in 2009. He sees potential for PE to revolutionize products and marketing.

“The consumer is our boss,” Dr. McGuire said. “PE can revolutionize new products we don’t even know we need today. The question is what kind of value PE can provide that cannot be achieved any other way, whether it is due to flexibility or form factor.”

Dr. McGuire did add that cost is an issue, noting that Tide labels cost seven/tenths of a cent, and P&G ships a million bottles daily. Service will also be a critical component: “Help integrating these technologies will be a requirement of success,” he added.

Plastic Logic has received must attention for its Que e-Reader, and Konrad Herre, vice president manufacturing and managing director, Plastic Logic GmbH, located in Dresden, spoke of the company’s goals. “Our target is a paperless briefcase,” he said, discussing the challenges of scaling up production.

PE designers also offered insights into new opportunities. For example, Dr. Kate Stone of Novalia offered a look at some of the concepts they are working on.

Richard Price, vice president product management for Nano ePrint, talked about the new projects underway at his company. “Our initial applications were easy assemblies on polyester, paper and cards, either transparent or integrated into the artwork, lightweight and flexible,” Mr. Price said, adding that future applications include disposable electronics, ubiquitous sensors and flexible displays.

As the conference’s name implied, photovoltaics were an important topic. Daniel Tomlinson, senior associate of business development for Ascent Solar, and Solarion AG CEO Dr. Karsten Otte analyzed the field of CIGS (copper indium gallium (di)selenide), while Dr. Keith Brooks, Dyesol’s managing director, talked about the opportunities that lay ahead for dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC).

In terms of practical product usage, Mareike Friedrich, sales and marketing manager worldwide at Neuber, discussed how the company has integrated OPC cells created by Konarka into its solar energy-powered handbags.

Displays were also a key aspect, with industry leaders such as Kent Displays Inc. president Joel Domino, Pelikon Limited president Mike Powell and Liquavista project manager Chris Nice among the presenters discussing their experiences in the growing field, and the role that printing can play. “These are all potentially printable processes and components,” Mr. Nice said.

As the conference closed, Raghu Das, IDTechEx’s CEO, said that the interest from end-users signals a strong future for PE.

“There’s a lot more interest from end-users as they explore what the possible applications for PE could be,” Mr. Das said. “We have lots of great technologies and interested end-users. The key is to link these two groups up.”