The following is an article by Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx, the global research and business intelligence firm that created the Printed Electronics USA 2015 event which will be held Nov. 18―19, in Santa, Clara, California.
Today's emerging technologies are varied, vast - and moving at the blink of an eye. Here are the top 10 key trends we'll see at the show that are changing the way the world lives, works and plays.
Wearable technology moves beyond fashionable
Wearable technology is a strong driver for the development of stretchable electronics, enabling devices that can conform and move with the human body ― rather than the rigid blocks of electronics that constrict human motion we saw in early stages. Not only are there new innovations in materials, adhesives and component connections, key components like sensors, batteries and transistors are themselves now flexible. Through the use of case studies and key analyses, presenting companies will discuss implementation of these emerging technologies in new products, such as the Baby MIMO electronic monitoring vest enabled by stretchable ink from EMS.
Printed electronics: from component supply to innovative product design
Over the last 18 months, many players in the printed electronics industry have been moving from offering a component to making complete products, resulting in the creation of new market spaces with new products not previously feasible. Many of these products - as well as new ones to be announced - will be demonstrated at the show, including the TempTraq smart band aid from BlueSpark; the golf club sensor labels from Enfucell; smart packaging from Thin Film Electronics; and pens that write with conductive ink to produce circuits from Electroninks. Attendees will also see the host of the integration tools that enable these new products.
Illuminating flexible displays and lighting
OLED and ― even now LCD ― displays are increasingly becoming flexible with the use of plastic substrates. In fact, last July LG Display announced that it will invest approximately $900 million in a flexible OLED display manufacturing line in Korea. These flexible displays call for new materials and films, from flexible barrier materials to flexible backplanes; and players in this arena are also prioritizing consumer electronics and automotive applications. The IDTechEx Show! features sessions on displays, lighting and related components, such as barrier films and flexible transparent conductive films.
Structural electronics take flight
Structural electronics are replacing the old components-in-a-box approach with smart materials, such as load―bearing parts, smart skin and e-textiles. For example, a recent IDTechEx interview with one of the largest car Japanese companies revealed that their experimental 3D printing of ultra-lightweight car seats, based on bird bone structure, will now become 3D-PE with electrics and electronics built into the seat as it is grown. Meanwhile, teams in Australia, the UK and the U.S. will be demonstrating supercapacitor car bodies using in-mold electronics. A key session at the show will discuss how these structural electronics are taking flight ― from printed functional systems on aircraft to in-mold electronics.
3D printed electronics expand
3D printing is now being combined with printed electronics, which has led to the development of exciting new products. For instance, 3D printers have developed metals which can be 3D printed to create metal objects from jewelry to engine parts. This emerging technology will be the focus of a session about metal materials for 3D printing; and printing metallic materials with corresponding functional inks, such as printing dielectrics onto 3D surfaces to create 3D electronics, is also covered in a session on 3D printed electronics.
Thin is in with sensors
Large investments have been made to enable flexible, thin sensors rather than expand the market of rigid sensors ― a trend that can be seen in the actions of companies like ISORG, which has raised $22 million to build a facility to make optical sensors on plastic; and by the U.S. Dept. of Defense's investment of $75 million in a new manufacturing innovation institute for flexible and hybrid electronics. (Both organizations are presenting at the show.) We'll also see improvements and new form factors with conventional sensors driven by the ongoing needs of wearable technology, the automotive industry, the Internet of Things and built structures. These sensor advances are covered in presentations by some of today's most dynamic organizations, including Intel, InvenSense, Honeywell and TE Connectivity, which will highlight key opportunities as we progress to the trillion sensor network.
Energy harvesting reaches a higher power
Energy harvesters started out as smaller devices used to power IoT sensor nodes, switches and other small devices, but this capability has rapidly grown to now include thermoelectrics providing energy input for cars; and companies such as Google embracing airborne wind energy (AWE); and others in use now for regenerative breaking. At the show, we'll see how today's harvesters can turn motion in a 3D direction into a single directional motion for harvesting energy, in addition to form factors ranging from thin piezoelectric films to large, high-power output devices.
Thin, flexible batteries: not your father's bunny
The world's largest consumer electronics companies, such as Apple, LG and Samsung, have moved into the development of flexible battery technology ― due in a large part to the wearable technology market, which will help drive the flexible battery market from U.S. $ 6.9 million in 2015 to more than U.S $400 million in 2025, according to IDTechEx Research. Key presentations at the show will illustrate how this incredible market will unfold.
The motion of the ocean: energy independent vehicles
Energy Independent Electric Vehicles (EIVs) exist on and under water, as airships and planes and as on―road and off―road vehicles ― typically relying on sunshine sometimes with other forms of energy harvesting as well, including waves and wind―making electricity to power their motors. But mostly they rely on flexible photovoltaics. At the show, key presentations will focus on increasingly multiple, on―board energy harvesting that will further boost the already impressive speed, payloads and duty cycles.
You can see clearly now: smart eyewear enabling VR and AR
More organizations are developing smart glasses and contact lenses than ever before. Fueled by new component form factors and lower power functionality, they seek to address the huge virtual reality and augmented reality opportunities ripe for the taking. At the IDTechEx Show!, you'll be able to try out the latest innovations for yourself.