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Printed Electronics World
Posted on November 12, 2007 by  & 

A snapshot of Printed Electronics USA

The aim of this article is to give readers a snapshot of this meeting so far. I hope that it will be of interest to people who have not been able to join us in San Francisco but who are interested in hearing what goes on in this community.
San Francisco looks to be a great venue for this meeting. In addition to having a large local community with relevant interests the climate this time of year is great.

Monday 12th November - Masterclasses

Having masterclasses on the day before a conference is a great idea. For those who are new to the field it gives a great way to come up to speed with the technology and the terminology before the conference sessions begin. For the specialists in a particular area it is good to be able to see the whole picture, presented as one coherent snapshot. It is also the first of a number of great networking events which commenced right at the start of the first session - see below.
Masterclass 1 - Introduction to Printed Electronics
This session was opened by Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx. He began by getting everyone in the audience to introduce themselves which in my mind has a number of benefits. First, it gave the presenters a chance to hear right at the outset what the audience was looking for in the session. Secondly, it gave everyone a chance to put some names to faces - there were some people in the audience I wished to talk to following email conversations from my previous articles from the Alaska Digital Fabrication conference.
This session was a great introduction to the meeting as it covered the full panoply of the topic areas of the conference. The point was made right at the start that this is a huge area covering the printing of electric as well as electronic systems. As such it could well become bigger than the current silicon electronics business. No wonder this area is attracting a lot of attention!
Peter continued by giving an overview of printed electronics, particularly in comparison to silicon based electronics. Feature sizes of printed electronics are much larger than current silicon fabrication technologies achieve. However, one aspect of this that I had not realised is the advantages large features have on fault tolerance, a particular issue for aerospace and defence applications. Peter also emphasised the rise of the "new inorganics" - the world of printed electronics does not look to be set for domination by organic chemicals.
He also covered substrates which are of great interest to me and the great potential that flexible substrates offer this market. The key messages of this session? We are on the cusp of real applications and no one printing technology will do it all.
After a break Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx took over. His emphasis was more on the technologies rather than the applications so was a good complement to what went before. He emphasised the importance of screen printing technology as a printing application currently in use and the ways in which additive printing technologies will decrease lead times for design changes. However, the likes of Intel really have nothing to worry about (yet) as the technologies and applications look set to be complementary, rather than in competition to the output of fabrication plants.
Finally this masterclass concluded with a presentation from Gary Johnson, president and CEO of Thin Battery Technology. They have a printable system that aims to integrate with printed electronic devices based on carbon - zinc technology.
Masterclass 2 - Displays & Lighting
This took place in the afternoon and there was a choice of offerings.
For those interested in mating up investment with opportunity there was an Investment Summit planned for the afternoon - see for details. However, as I have neither money to invest nor technology to sell I went for the second offering, a masterclass on Displays and Lighting.
I found this class to be an interesting choice. It consisted of 6 presentations on the display and lighting theme.
The first was again from Peter Harrop and served as an introduction to the applications and technologies. What was apparent was the fact that there is still life in AC electroluminescence technologies and I look forward to seeing some of the conference papers on this. There was however a lot of (justifiable) focus on OLED technologies here. I had a particular interest in technologies using paper substrates as I am due to give a presentation on this later in the week.
The second was given by Ian Underwood of MicroEmissive Displays. He described their very small displays used for video glasses and electronic viewfinders. It is based on silicon chip technology but at this size there is no need for flexibility. They used a filtered white OLED system, sacrificing efficiency for better colour stability with device ageing. At present the POLED is spin coated but they are looking at inkjet technology as an alternative to this. Finally, I found their approach to digital drive electronics well reasoned as it gets them away from the fixed pattern noise issues in the darker scene areas.
The third was from Steven Ludmerer of Foresight Science and Technology who presented on the challenges and opportunities coming from lighting technologies. This presentation was a really good comparison of competing technologies and particularly of LED, OLED and compact fluorescent systems.
After a break for coffee and networking Devin MacKenzie of Add-Vision continued the class with an overview of flexible OLED displays. He illustrated some of the problems that existing display technologies have with flexibility and moved on to show the opportunities and challenges facing flexible OLEDs.
The 5th session from Lorenza Moro of SRI covered substrate and encapsulation challenges in display and lighting. With my interest in substrate issues this a particularly good one for me. The presentation started by looking at some of this issues that flexible substrates will face in some applications as they use components sensitive to air and water. Lorenza gave us a good comparison of substrates and showed some of the benefits of using multilayer films for encapsulation.
Finally, Ghassan Jabbour of Arizona State University continued the theme of encapsulation, particularly an issue where fabrication technologies utilise a reactive cathode. His talk was illustrated with some interesting examples from projects he has been involved with.
Overall, an excellent start to Printed Electronics USA and I look forward to the first day of the conference!
by Alan Hodgson, Independent Consultant
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