More Signs of Growth in the PE Market

There have been a lot of different signs that the printed electronics (PE) industry is on the upswing.

Perhaps the strongest indicator of this potential is the financial interest being shown in many of the various companies, spanning a wide range of disciplines, as well as new manufacturing capacity being added.

In mid-March, Thin Film Electronics ASA resolved and accomplished a private placement of 25 million new shares in the company at a price of NOK 1.80 per share, raising NOK 45 million ($7.8 million) in capital. The company has announced a series of major alliances in recent months, and appears to be well on its way to commercializing its printed Thinfilm Memory Everywhere technology.

There is strong financial news on the solar side. In the last two months, Nanosolar and MiaSolé, two CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, selenium) photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers, have received sizable financial backing. Heliatek, an organic PV manufacturer, has opened its new manufacturing facilities, while Eight19 has received numerous awards for its printed plastic OPV cells.

In February, Nanosolar announced that it had closed $20 million to fund continued expansion as well as newly committed projects. Nanosolar is noted for operating the industry’s first roll-to-roll solar cell printing factory in San Jose, CA as well as a panel-assembly factory in Luckenwalde, Germany.

In March, MiaSolé reported that the company has secured $55 million in funding to expand both its glass-on-glass and flexible PV lines, which is produced through sputtering.

Heliatek, a spin out from the Technical University of Dresden (IAPP) and the University of Ulm, invested €14 million in the construction of this first production line in Dresden, the world’s first manufacturing line producing organic solar panels in a roll-to-roll process using vacuum deposition at low temperatures. The company expects to roll out its organic solar film for Energy-2-Go applications in the fall of 2012.

Eight19, a developer and manufacturer of third generation solar cells based on printed plastic, has received numerous awards for its IndiGo pay-as-you-go personal solar electricity system for off-grid communities. The company began projects in Kenya in September 2011, and has started deploying its IndiGo system in South Sudan.

On the printed battery front, Blue Spark Technologies opened its new high-volume production plant in West Bend, WI, in January 2012. At full capacity, the plant will be capable of producing up to 300 million of its flexible, disposable carbon-zinc batteries, which will be key for products ranging from battery assisted passive (BAP) RFID, smart cards and smart tags to sensors and Interactive Printed Media.

PragmatIC Printing Ltd., a specialist in imprinted logic circuits, which it licenses for markets ranging from consumer goods, smart packaging, security products and novelties, announced it is moving its technology to pilot-scale production under an agreement with The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), a UK-based technology innovation center. CPI’s print line is capable of supporting a number of different printing processes, including rotary screen, offset lithography, flexography and gravure, using a modular press.

Perhaps the most interesting development comes from Novaled AG. Founded in 2001 as a spin-off of the Technical University of Dresden and the Fraunhofer Institute of Dresden and headquartered in Dresden, Novaled’s OLED technology, its proprietary OLED materials and customized OLED products and services is well regarded. For example, in September 2011, Samsung Ventures Investment Corporation, the venture capital arm of Samsung, became a shareholder of Novaled.

Now Novaled announced that it has filed a registration statement on Form F-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering (IPO) of its American Depositary Shares (ADSs). Novaled intends to apply to have its ADSs listed on the NASDAQ Global Market or New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Depending on how the IPO is received by the market, this may be an excellent sign of the progress being made in the OLED field.