The term printed electronics is shorthand for printed and potentially printed electronics and electrics. It is an enabling technology like paper or the wheel and, like them, its applications are now taking unexpected turns.
For example, if you ask people what a wheel is used for, they say it moves things along. However, creative users long ago gave us the prayer wheel, roulette wheel, steering wheel and wheels in micro-electromechanical devices MEMS that are too small to see with the naked eye. The equivalent thing now happening with printed electronics is totally new applications while the obvious first idea - replacing conventional printing with something appealing to many senses - is being successfully pursued. The lateral thinking here is giving us stretchable smart skin for humans and vehicles and progress from single layers on packages and posters to printing large lithium-ion batteries that are rapidly displacing lead-acid batteries for vehicles. This year we saw supercapacitors replacing large lithium-ion traction batteries in electric buses and the like and the first use of printing in making those supercapacitors. Indeed, most of an electric vehicle, whether for land, water or air, will be printed.
It is therefore not surprising that the world's largest event on the subject, Printed Electronics USA again opens up new fronts, from use in metamaterial in light harvesting and meta-lasing in Britain to printed graphene potentially giving us something near to a "perfect battery" though it is not a battery at all: it is a supercapacitor or the mixed technology lithium capacitor that is a new focus. Indeed, there is huge interest in the new Graphene Live conference} being held at the same venue at the same time, partly because of this printed material being seen as key to sensors, transistors, transparent electrodes and much more.
On the other hand, healthcare is now a major topic throughout the event as we proceed to bionic man and women following the hugely successful Paralympics. It is therefore not surprising that IDTechEx again fields best practice in university and other research centers from Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Australia and more in a comprehensively global sweep of best practice. You can save a large travel budget by attending this event. Once again, IDTechEx presents the world's largest companies explaining their involvement in printed electronics, sometimes as both developers and users but also as investors and acquirers. So powerful is this new form of enabling technology, like the wheel, that we shall hear Disney but also aerospace giant United Technologies, Procter & Gamble but also the US Army, Nukotoys (not what you think) and, in printing lighting, GE and Konica Minolta.