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Printed, flexible and organic electronics is a market worth $31.6 Billion in 2018, according to IDTechEx Research. The majority of that is for OLED displays, with glass-based versions now entering their golden age and foldable OLEDs and printed OLEDs now entering a phase of commercial growth. Then there is the near $2 Billion market for conductive ink used in many diverse applications and the $3.6 Billion market for sensors, mainly comprising of biosensors so far.
However, for many components and capabilities, one could categorize the printed electronics sector as "an old embryonic technology." From the high levels of excitement and investment 10-15 years ago to the sombre reality some 5 years ago as organizations focused on real commercial benefits by addressing the challenges of making the technology suitable for purpose while also identifying new market opportunities.
The Time has Come
The industry is now at a very different point in its maturity curve. On the one hand, suppliers have increasingly successfully identified key business opportunities where the technology provides benefit, while on the other hand more and more end users are flocking to the technology where they seek competitive advantage through benefits such as reducing processing steps, adding new form factors and features and achieving things not readily possible before.
Huge opportunities are arising across a huge number of applications – some of them being multi-billion dollar opportunities. Take for example electronic skin patches which has grown to be a market worth over $5 Billion in 2019 for monitoring glucose or heart rate. Increasingly these require more and more flexible electronics. Indeed, e-textiles will become a market with over $2 Billion alone by 2028. On the other hand, you have those in PCB manufacturing who are switching to inkjet printing to reduce the number of process steps and therefore save time and money. One automotive electronics supplier will move to inkjet printing etch resist for all its PCBs this year. Then there is another using printing to repair defects on large area display panels – the alternative being to discard the new panel.
Smart packaging has come center stage, with the user needs and technology capability now aligning for the first time thanks to new high-volume production capability of flexible ICs and widespread reader infrastructure in addition to intent from global consumer brands.
Other sectors that are particularly strong are healthcare, such as the OLED eye mask disrupting a multi-billion dollar industry for injections into the eye used to treat Diabetic retinopathy; or the automotive sector where vehicle interiors are the new battleground in differentiation, with user interfaces and lighting enabled by printed electronics, to materials addressing the heat management issues in the increasing range of power electronics used in electric vehicles. In consumer electronics, the adoption of 5G is creating massive new opportunities for spray-on or printable electromagnetic shielding materials.
In short, printed electronics capabilities have spread into many different use cases, with the list growing and companies aligning themselves with the opportunities. Such applications are covered in depth in the IDTechEx report Flexible, Printed & Organic Electronics 2019-2029.
Europe's Biggest Event on Printed Electronics Business Opportunities
Held on 10-11 April, 2019 in Berlin, Germany, the unique focus of the IDTechEx Printed Electronics Europe event is to speed up the adoption of printed electronics by bringing together end users with suppliers across the value chain and highlighting the successful case studies and end user needs.
With 2,500 attendees and 200 exhibitors expected, it is Europe's largest show highlighting the business opportunities in printed electronics. Buyers are no longer predominately the academic world – it is industry that is now driving the growth of printed electronics, which is the focus of this event.