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Printed Electronics World
Posted on March 12, 2014 by  & 

Smart Packaging: One-off gimmick or sustained use?

In new research for the report Smart Packaging Comes To Market: Brand Enhancement with Electronics 2014-2024, IDTechEx conducted extensive interviews with end-users in order to understand the challenges and opportunities they see for smart packaging. The companies interviewed were predominately consumer goods organizations totalling sales of more than $1 trillion a year.
The following are some of the highlights of the research, which are covered in-depth in the IDTechEx report:
Drivers for smart packaging
There are several drivers for printed electronics in retail and healthcare, however, a key driver is the need to differentiate products, particularly from retailer private label products. Brands compete with the retailers on these products, but awkwardly the retailer is their customer and conduit to consumers. Retailers are increasingly making similar looking products to the brands, leveraging the marketing spend the brands have invested. Differentiation is needed - particularly where those can be protected.
Additionally, brands seek to use smart packaging to:
• enable premium pricing
• offer better merchandising
• provide marketing and measurement data such as stock levels
• improve safety
Consumers are also demanding that they want:
• more product information
• interaction
• entertainment
• a high level of safety
This is all coupled with megatrends of the ageing population (making products easier to use) and the need to reduce packaging waste.
End-user views - application needs
A common trend from the end-users interviewed by IDTechEx was that they see printed electronics as being able to deliver value by enabling promotional and differentiated products and packaging.
In many end-user organizations people are looking at printed electronics; some are at the early stages of technology scouting and others have built and are assessing prototypes. Most of this activity is being undertaken at a research level, although senior executives are increasingly aware of the technology. The technology only really becomes implemented once the marketing team sign off on adopting it. However, most of the research scientists interviewed would not present prototypes to marketing unless they had verified that suppliers were production ready at appropriate price points.
Most end-users would ideally like to create their own IP around the application concept to prevent it being copied by their competition.
End-user views - technical needs
Several end-users reported that printed electronics has a credibility gap to narrow. Many had expected the technology to improve and deliver faster, but fail to see results. They do not understand why seemingly simple things cannot be done. They are coming from a perspective that the users of their products are the iPad generation - connectivity, high resolution color displays etc. Crude, unreliable systems are not acceptable.
End-users are finding that the technology is complex. One company told us that to add a fully printed light with a switch onto their product needed an additional 43 process steps. Most end-users have realised that printed components are not all ready; logic and battery are key short falls. Most are happy to work with hybrid solutions (coin cell battery and Si IC). The challenge is to eliminate manual steps and hide components.
Lifetime is often not a problem. Some of the products involved last short life times - from a day to weeks or a few months. Some however require a few years. Reliability is key - companies need robust solutions.
The biggest problem reported to IDTechEx was the lack of integrators. End-users do not want to become integrators themselves. They want quick turn-around (5-6 weeks) and a path to scalability.
Additionally, the environmental credentials still need to be assessed. Most companies have targets for waste and emissions. All market managers demand sustainable products to minimise the risk to the brand. They wish to avoid using silicon ICs and coin cell batteries, an area where printed electronics can deliver value.
In summary, IDTechEx find that there are an increasing number of end-users who are closely looking at printed electronics. There are several challenges for them which the supplier base can alleviate by working with partners to enable a path to providing complete integrated solutions for assessment.
Detailed analysis and forecasts
A full assessment of each company, along with case studies, technology progress and roadmap, is given in the report Smart Packaging Comes To Market: Brand Enhancement with Electronics 2014-2024.
This report reveals the global demand for electronic smart packaging devices is currently at a tipping point and will grow rapidly to $1.45 billion within 10 years. The electronic packaging (e-packaging) market will remain primarily in consumer packaged goods (CPG) reaching 14.5 billion units that have electronic functionality within a decade.
Meet the end-user leaders in smart packaging
Leading end-users exploring printed electronics, such as Hasbro, Diageo, Electrolux, Boeing, De La Rue, Abbott Diagnostics, Decathlon and Stora Enso, will present their needs and programs at the Printed Electronics Europe 2014 External Link event. The conference and tradeshow, hosted by IDTechEx, will be held in Berlin, Germany on 1-2 April.
The event brings together end-users with suppliers - where "pull" and "push" balance - to provide attendees with that critical insight into the driving needs for the technology, in addition to appraisal of all the key enabling materials, components and manufacturing processes.
The event also airs relevant progress in related technologies such as wearable technology, 3D printing, energy harvesting and the Internet of Things, with presentations from companies including Cisco, Disney Research, Intel, GE Research and others.
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