I am Raghu Das and I have been tracking and reporting on the printed, flexible and organic electronics industry since 2001 for IDTechEx. We held our first event on this topic in 2004 and replicated it all over the world culminating in our next event in Berlin on April 28-29, 2015 which will feature over 2,000 attendees and 150 exhibitors.
The Billion Dollar Successes
This sector has been fascinating to follow and report on. Several billion dollar industries such as OLED displays already exist but the OLEDs today are not printed. OLED displays alone exceeded $16Billion in sales last year, driven by the need to differentiate in the tight margin LCD business. By revenue the second largest sector is the printing of sensors - mainly glucose test strips today, a $6.4 Billion market in 2014, with other sensor technologies accounting for a much smaller but rapidly growing $80 million sliver. Then there is conductive ink, a $2.3 Billion market in 2014, with most going to print the bus bars on PV solar cells, with the second biggest market being printed touch screen edge electrodes for the rapidly growing touch panel sector, followed by a diverse range of circuits from switches to RFID antennas to smart packaging. Market sizing data is from the IDTechEx report, Printed, Flexible and Organic Electronics 2015-2025 which concludes that the sector will experience a CAGR of 8.6% through 2025.
Solutions Focussed Products
And then there are the many emerging sectors - with modest revenues presently - such as components including transistors, printed batteries, electrochromic displays and Organic Photovoltaics (OPV). Many incremental technology improvements have been made and in the last 12 to 18 months something significant has happened - more companies are working to develop complete solutions, reflecting the need by customers to see full solutions. After all, users do not want to be integrators.
Examples include time temperature indicators, smart plasters and other products, some of which will be announced for the first time at the IDTechEx Printed Electronics Europe event in Berlin next week. Companies include Thin Film Electronics, Blue Spark, PragmatIC Printing and FlexEnable. Companies such as Kent Displays have shown this model successfully by creating products such as the Boogie Board of which they continue to ship millions. Unless you are replacing or improving a sub-component that already exists, the most successful strategy seems to be in creating a new finished product to create a category and drive the market, rather than offering a partial solution or a sub-component.
There are several strong trends providing market pull. They include:
- Global interest in wearable technology as players in fast saturating consumer smart phone and tablet markets seek new growth opportunities. Here printed and flexible electronics is an enabler in providing new, flexible form factors that help companies differentiate in a crowded market
- 3D printing and printed electronics finding synergies - watch companies such as Ceradrop and Optomec
- Global companies such as Apple, LG Chem, Samsung and STMicro Electronics build or buy their way into flexible batteries
- Commercial curved displays today adopting flexible encapsulation barriers leading to the introduction of commercially available flexible displays
- Many Kickstarter projects, from home-printed circuits to pens that write conductive circuits, are successfully funded
- Strong investor interest from corporate investors and VCs.
The Event that Captures it all
This sector is taking off and there is only one show in the world to be at, to see all the latest solutions and, critically, to meet with other adopters and learn how they are integrating various technologies. That's Printed Electronics Europe 2015, hosted by IDTechEx, featuring some of the world's biggest brands such as Jaguar Land Rover, Qualcomm, Shell, Ericsson, Stora Enso, United Technologies, Tesco and hundreds more. Accelerate your knowledge of the industry, register for the last remaining seats at www.PrintedElectronicsEurope.com .