PE Europe 2011 Highlights New Opportunities, Needs for Market

As Printed Electronics & Photovoltaics Europe 2011 heads into its second day, attendees are learning about new innovations and applications for printed electronics (PE), but they are also hearing about needs for the future as well.

Attendees listen to the keynote talks at Printed Electronics & Photovoltaics 2011.
The fact that there is increasing interest in PE is shown by the continuing increase in the number of attendees and end-users who are coming to the conference. Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx, which is hosting Printed Electronics & Photovoltaics Europe 2011, said that there is plenty of reason for optimism about the present state and future of printed electronics.

"We are really pleased with the turnout this year,” Das said. “The industry is moving forward at a good pace."

Das gave the opening presentation yesterday, focusing on some of the current projects that are coming into fruition. He also outlined the current expectations market expectations, with IDTechEx’s 10-year forecast showing growth from $2.2 billion in sales this year to $45 billion in 2021.

He was followed by Herbert Goes, packaging innovation project manager for Mars Nederland bv. Goes discussed 'Being Seen is Being Sold' - The Future of Retail Ready Displays," focusing on both the opportunities and challenges of printed electronics.

Herbert Goes of Mars Nederland bv.
Goes spoke about how Mars is looking to the PE industry for opportunities to have eye catching retail ready displays. While 90% of all shoppers like chocolate, 80% of all shoppers avoid the chocolate aisle, so the chocolate industry really needs to have eye catching displays to attract impulse buying. However, Goes also stressed that with a product that sells for as little as 50 cents, the cost of printed electronics needs to come way down.

Dr. Darryl Cotton, a researcher from Nokia Research Centre (NRC) in Cambridge, UK, followed with a talk titled "Stretchable Electronics for Mobile Devices." Dr. Cotton gave a brief overview of the NRC and then focused on stretchable conductors, which have the potential to enable new and exciting features for mobile devices. They can conform to the body, have an expandable screen, fit in a purse and offer many other attractive advantages for consumers.

Talks by Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Metro Stores, Printechnologics GmbH, Bayer MaterialScience AG, MIT and Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology followed, illustrating how printed electronics are advancing in fields ranging from displays and touch screens to photovoltaics and retail.

Optimism about the PE Market

Raghu Das of IDTechEx.
Mirroring the interest in the PE market from suppliers and end-users, exhibitors covering the gamut from printed systems to equipment and raw materials also said that they are seeing products moving toward commercialization.

Thin Film Electronics ASA has been particularly active in recent months, including announcing a commercialization agreement with PARC.

“We are seeing strong commercial momentum for our current product portfolio, focused on toys and games,” said Davor Sutija, Thin Film Electronics ASA CEO. “There is also interest from outside the toy and game industry for our toy development kit, including from companies targeting markets that meet the needs of a wide variety of industries.

Dr. Daryl Cotton of Nokia Research Centre.
“The design of the world’s first printed rewritable memory array with logic circuitry, Thinfilm Addressable Memory, marked the first milestone on our roadmap towards creating integrated printed systems,” Sutija added. “The design, which combines Thinfilm’s memory technology with PARC’s printed transistor technology, allows compact higher-density printed memories and enables new applications, including integration with other printed elements, such as sensors, power sources, and antennas. The prototypes for the addressable memory will be ready during 2011. Transfer to production is expected in 2012. There are significant horizontal markets, markets that meet the needs of a wide variety of industries, waiting for this technology to be ready.”

“We are seeing interest from a wide variety of sectors and companies – and not just from the mainstream areas,” said Dr. Neil Chilton, technical director, Printed Electronics Ltd. “There is certainly a growing interest in what we can offer, but it is still true that volumes remain low, which for PEL, as a specialist company, is not a problem at all. In fact we are keen to ensure that all the elements of the ‘PE toolkit’ as we call it are firmly in place before moving to a wider market.”

Printed battery manufacturers are seeing increased interest for flexible battery sources.

“We are seeing commercial movement in our targets, specifically Interactive Printed Media (IPM), RFID and RF-enabled sensors,” said Matt Ream, vice president marketing, Blue Spark Technologies.

“We receive lots of requests from companies with new innovations and are supporting them, like printing batteries on various substrates, or wound healing or skin treatment innovations, but the majority of our work is supporting the ‘old’ markets and we expect to see real breakthroughs there in the near future,” said Risto Huvila, COO, global customer operations, Enfucell Ltd.

“We are starting to see certain maturity in displays and sensors, especially in healthcare and packaging and media applications,” Huvila added. “We are also working on a ‘kitchen,’ an integrated manufacturing process to remove one of the major problems hindering battery-assisted PE applications to emerge.”

Attendes learned what exhibitors such as NovaCentrix were showcasing during the conference.
Roderik Höppener, president of Haiku Tech Inc., noted that he is seeing growth in the PE marketplace, in terms of new projects heading to the lab and manufacturing stages, while Stefano Favero, Engineered Films Division manager at Coveme, said that displays are an excellent opportunity.

“The new markets for us are primarily in the flat screen/touch screen segment, where we are introducing our products as well as a new product that we are now implementing, consisting of a conductive non-ITO-based film,” said Favero.

Stan Farnsworth, vice president marketing for NovaCentrix, said that NovaCentrix is continuing to see new groups getting involved in printed electronics.

“While this is a typical pattern in new technology adoption, we are nonetheless encouraged that the trend is in the right direction,” Farnsworth added. “Additionally, more and more established companies are coming to us who are currently involved in traditional electronics component design and fabrication, such as for high-volume consumer electronics. Some of these are organizations deep inside the supply chain, not necessarily broadly branded, who are looking for technical innovation to provide competitive advantage either in pricing or in capability, or both.”