Printed electronics is growing up. The research for its own sake now has less prominence.The sterile debate about what is organic and what is inorganic (most devices include both) is receding into the rear view mirror. The unimaginative marketing of printed and thin film electronics as incremental improvements in flat screen and mobile phone displays, for example, is being questioned.
There is something to learn here from the history of RFID. Many RFID tags are partly printed today and many will be totally printed within ten years so the parallel in marketing terms is interesting. Both printed electronics and RFID are enabling technologies not specific products or solutions. In the early days, imaginative backers of RFID realised that the "low hanging fruit" was not the replacement of barcodes by head on competition. It was the creation of new markets. The key fob that opened and closed your car from a distance was an example of this and $2 billion of these have been sold, if we include the reader in the car. The key was not replaced. It was a market created out of fresh air. Innovision repeated the trick in 2002, landing the world's largest order for RFID tags - 80 million of them. To go with them, it sold a world record number of RFID readers - millions of them. For what? It was the Hasbro Star wars toy and it enhanced the function of the toy - nothing to do with barcodes. It created a new market.
At the world's largest conference on printed electronics, Printed Electronics USA, San Francisco 13-14 November, www.idtechex.com/peUSA, IDTechEx will move this imaginative approach forward. Hasbro will present on "The Future of Toys: the Need for Change" and that will be about printed electronics not RFID. Elumin8 will share what happens when you put artists and giant printed electroluminescent displays together and Soligie will show how its form of collaborative innovation in printed electronics is bearing fruit. Cubic Corp. will talk on "Where Mass Transit and Retail Meet RFID" looking at the opportunities for printed electronics.
An IDTechEx forecast of where this gets us in 2012 is shown below.
Menippos will share its high volume breakthrough into the game market with an entirely printed electronic game card. Then there is Sony looking at the new world opened up by its amazing flexible displays. T-ink will describe many more breakthroughs of printed electronics into new applications that it has achieved in the last year. What does printed transistor company Poly IC mean about selling "Smart Objects"? What is the "Post Silicon" department of giant chipmaker ST Microelectronics up to? What will printed, flexible mega memory now being commercialised by Thin Film Electronics AB, be used for? Where will Plastic E Print's "Megahertz Electronics Printed in a Single Step" and Quantum Paper - which really is an animated color display on paper - appear in the marketplace? What does the National Science Foundation mean by "Printed Electronics: the next revolution"? It is all covered in this conference, enhanced by many optional visits to exciting local printed electronics facilities, a choice of optional masterclasses and an investment forum. Over 100 speakers are flying in from all over the world and the emphasis is on commercialisation.