IDTechEx finds that the conductive ink market is fast changing. It is currently a $2.3bn market, making it one of the largest segments of all printed electronics- see www.IDTechEx.com/inks for further information. This demand here has long been driven by photovoltaic and touch screen applications, but now many new battle grounds are emerging. Each frontier comes with big potential but also big unresolved challenges: this means opportunity for innovation.
3D printing of electronics
The way we prototype electronics may be about to change thanks to actual 'printing' of printed circuit boards (PCBs). Desktop and professional printers have emerged, addressing either the hobbyist/DIY or the high-end professional ends of the circuit prototyping market. To learn more about this market visit www.IDTechEx.com/3Dpe
This is an exciting trend which is why we invited some of the best to speak and exhibit at the IDTechEx Show!: NanoDimension will be demonstrating its 'multi-layer' PCB printer (utilizes its own silver nanoparticle inks) at our Demonstration Street and BotFactory will be discussing its hybrid CNC/inkjet/Pick-and-Place machine that can printed PCBs.
You may argue that these PCB printers only operate in 2.5 dimensions, but true 3D printed electronics is also on its way. This has the opportunity to bridge the gap between electronics and 3D printing, thus transforming 3D printed plastics into 'smart' and 'functional' objects. The first step towards this is innovation on embedded or in-situ metallisation of 3D printed plastics. Companies are already working on this with success, and that is why we have invited Voxel8 to discuss its work at the IDTechEx Show!.
Stretchable inks for wearables
Electronic textiles are becoming an integral part of wearable technology, moving the industry beyond the current component-in-a-box (albeit a new box like Watch) approach. Currently, we estimate that 18% of all e-textile products have a printed electronic ink component, and the rest have functional textiles - see www.IDTechEx.com/textiles for more information.
The trend is to move towards ink-based solutions and to this end we have picked some of the best work, inviting the likes of DuPont and Nagase to speak on their work on printed electronics for wearables at the IDTechEx Show!.
The IDTechEx Show! has always been about bringing potential end users to innovators, and that is why this event also includes a co-located conference on Wearable Technologies. Here, we will have many companies that are already using, or could directly use, printed stretchable inks in their wearable products. To name a few, we will BeBop, Ohmatex, Sensing Tex, Cyrcadia Health, Biolinq, TE Connectivity, etc. as speakers or exhibitors. Visit www.idtechex.com/wusa for further information.
Structural electronics is a megatrend that we will shape innovation in the years to come. The idea is to replace the old components-in-a-box approach with smart, functional materials that also act as the load-bearing element, thus getting two (or more) for the price of one! We are now at the beginning of the beginning of this structural change- see www.IDTechEx.com/structural for further information.
In-mold electronics is also a part of this trend: it seeks to do away with a separate PCB-in-a-box, and mold the electronics into the desired arbitrarily-shaped body of the final object. A key enabling technology here is conductive inks that can be thermoformed. Companies are already busy solving the technical problems, and the IDTechEx Show! brings you some of the best-in-class work in the area from the likes of DuPont.
Even the well-established touch screen market is changing
Printing edge electrodes for the touch screen market will nearly be a $600 million market in 2015, according to www.IDTechEx.com/inks. This market is however undergoing rapid change. The requirement was for L/S (linewidth over spacing ratio of edge electrodes) of 120/120 um, which was easily addressed using standard screen printable inks. This has quickly changed to 20/20 as companies seek to narrow the bezel. This has pushed screen printing beyond its limits unless it is combined with lasering or photocuring. That is why companies supplying photocurable pastes are fast stealing market share from others. This is not only an opportunity for ink makers but also for those supplying photo-curing machines such as our LEAD sponsor, Novacentrix, and our GOLD Sponsor, Xenon.