The global printed electronics market –the fusion of the electronics and printing industries– is forecast to grow at quickly due to a remarkable increase in the demand of printed electronics as OEMs try to forge a path to less costly and more efficient production of printed circuits and devices. The printed electronics industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 33.8% by 2020 reaching $40.2 billion by 2020, and $300 billion by 2030, according to a market research report.
There has been an ongoing research carried out on materials and equipment in both companies and universities. The Centre for Process Information (CPI), the UK's National Center for Printable Electronics, for instance, offers open access capabilities for the scale up and commercialization of innovative printed electronic products and application. Trying and testing products under manufacturing conditions in a specialized environment lets manufacturers identify challenges and offers the opportunity to work on the problem in order to prevent future failures, reduce production costs, and ultimately create more affordable products.
Acting before the problem arises
The printable electronics industry faces some challenges that need to be addressed before they result in costly failures in the final electronics devices. One of the main challenges in printable electronics technologies is avoiding the presence of small particles, dust, or debris on coatings as this may cause short circuits and breaks in the electrical connections which causes subsequent failure in the final devices.
To solve this problem, the Center for Process Information (CPI) partnering with industry world leaders has developed novel cleaning technologies to improve the performance of printed electronics. The project developed new cleaning processes targeted to identify types and source of debris, technologies to clean films, and thus, reduce failure rates and reprocessing costs. To achieve this, the full supply chain from film supplier to device manufacturer was involved. The aim was the development of a supply chain capability to provide defect free film surfaces for the manufacturer of displays.
The development of printable electronics interests many industries
The potential of printable electronics is huge, an idea confirmed by rapid market growth. Printable electronics are applicable to a vast array of industries: electronics; IT; aerospace, defense and security; automotive and transportation; construction; retail and consumer goods; energy; food and drink; materials and chemicals; pharmaceuticals and personal care; specialty chemicals; and environment and water. The list is virtually endless.
Material investigation and applications
Manufacturers can reduce the risks associated with investing in new production lines by assessing, developing, and testing materials and thin film devices such as organic light emitting diodes (OLED), organic photovoltaics (OPV), and conductive inks and adhesives at CPI before being transferred to pilot lines.
The materials market is further segmented into substrates and inks, which include organic materials and inorganic materials such as; polymer, paper, silicon, glass, and silicon oxide. Inks are segmented in conductive and dielectric inks. Applications of printed electronics are segmented into sensors, displays, batteries, RFID tags, lighting, and photovoltaic.
The electronics supply chain benefits from printed electronics
In the electronics and IT market printable electronics technologies are used to generate energy in electronic devices, provide printable circuitry, and flexible screens. One of the major applications are the printed displays, which offer new design as well as functionality opportunities to device manufacturers. There are opportunity for the development of new applications in the printed electronics industry that haven't been envisioned yet.
Printed electronics also carry the potential to reduce environmental impact, energy consumption, and material waste as well as enable the production of light-weight and robust electronic components at a much lower cost thanks to the use of polymeric (carbon based) materials.