The older forms of printed electronics have been profitable for a long time. That includes printed conducting patterns as in membrane keyboards (eg Sony Japan), RFID antennas (eg Checkpoint Systems USA and Hyan Label China) and heated clothing (eg T-ink USA). Printed batteries are now getting traction, particularly now they are sold as complete solutions such as power storage for energy harvesting where the electronics is in the battery (eg Cymbet and Infinite Power Solutions USA).
Another successful flexible product based on a printed battery is the electronic skin patch supplied by the battery manufacturers (eg Power Paper Israel). One supplier is selling twelve million yearly and is a few months from profit for example. The printing of sensors for many types of medical test, recording pills taken and detecting tampering is often profitable (eg Information Mediary Canada) and it is rapidly growing as a business.
Printed flexible displays exploiting AC electroluminescence (eg Rogers Corp USA) have been profitable for decades. The news here is that recent availability of inks giving more vibrant colours, combined with more imaginative marketing, is opening up the probability of making profitable large businesses out of this flexible display technology rather than profitable small ones. On the other hand, electrophoretic displays are being adopted at breakneck speed, with about fifteen e-books launched in the last year and flexible then colour ones on the way. With this technology being incorporated in everything from radio controlled store pricing labels to wristwatches and e-posters, the leading supplier of the front planes - E-ink USA - looks set to be studied in management schools as the archetypal "how to do it right" in printed electronics.
That cannot be said of organic light emitting diode displays, printed transistors and organic photovoltaics because they still have some technical challenges. However, they will be well placed for major launches timed with the end of the recession. True, the amount of venture capital being placed is reducing. In the UK it is already at half the level of 2000. However, PolyPhotonix has just raised £4.5 million to make OLED displays in the UK in collaboration with the the new Printed Electronics Technical Centre PETEC in the UK which has even larger funding. In Germany, Novaled Germany has just raised Euros 8.5 million in its next round funding to develop the materials. In the USA, many start-ups making the new flexible laminar batteries have raised sums varying from $3 million to $15 million. SOMARK Innovations Inc USA has raised venture funds from four organisations in February 2009. SOMARK is developing a printed electronic RFID tattoo for use as an animal identification system. Applications include laboratory animals to improve drug development processes and cattle for food supply safety. With the funding, SOMARK will open an R&D facility in San Diego in addition to its St. Louis location.
In Europe, the new printed and potentially printed photovoltaics continue to attract hundreds of millions of Euros of investment (eg G24i UK). The moral is that you can raise money against the trend if you have the right business proposition.
What makes investors invest in this topic? What leads to profit sooner rather than later? What are the hot applications and technologies? What are the market forecasts? What comes next? Those attending the largest conference on the whole subject - Printed Electronics Europe will come away very clear about the answers. The focus of this conference is commercialisation, making money and benefitting society with these technologies. Indeed, the event features an optional Investment Summit with presentations from a diverse range of investors. The conference has no steering committee staffed with academics, but instead is organized by IDTechEx analysts who track the market globally and advise companies strategically at all levels. It addresses the practice while seeing the big picture in terms of the technological and commercial road map. The steering committee for this event is you.
Printed Electronics Europe is being held in Dresden, Germany between 7-8 April 2009.