The last couple of years has seen the market for printed and flexible electronics become a vibrant segment, with new products announced that are making the advent of printed electronics a reality. We are also witnessing the use of components as enabling devices for flexible, hybrid, textile or wearable electronics, in a variety of sectors from the automotive, to smart packaging to medical/healthcare and others. In a market that's expected to be worth over $69 billion by 2026, it is no surprise that the IDTechEx Show!, the biggest series of events on the topic is experiencing record breaking growth, with attendance reflecting the increased interest in the products being realized.
Technology developers moving downstream
Bluespark Technologies is a great example of one of the many technology providers moving downstream in the supply chain, with their TempTraq wearable wireless thermometer that incorporates the company's printed, flexible battery technology; TempTraq is the first 24-hour disposable patch that is in essence an intelligent thermometer that continuously senses, records and sends alerts of a child's temperature to compatible mobile devices through a dedicated mobile app.
The TempTraq, intelligent thermometer/disposable patch from Blue Spark. Source: Blue Spark Technologies
Enfucell in Finland on the other hand is incorporating its SoftBattery™ into a variety of sports and fitness wearable products as well: the company has demonstrated a golf sensor patch, a disposable patch that is attached to a golf club head in order to help golf players improve their swing. Again, the acquired data is transferred via low energy Bluetooth (BLE) to an application on a mobile device with the Enfucell battery powering the BLE data transmission. Similar patches can be tailored for other racquet sports, shooting, bowling, etc. Enfucell is also developing, along with its partners, disposable skin related wearables that include multisensor patches and iontophoresis applications for effective delivery of cosmetics and drugs.
Finally, the company has also demonstrated the use of its battery in cold chain monitoring, which is becoming increasingly important in pharmaceutical industry. In this case, a fully integrated temperature logger label with chip, printed NFC antenna and printed battery supports logging functionality similar to that of a reusable logger, but form factor and product cost enable item level logging.
Cutting edge technologies coming to market
In conclusion, whether it's polymer nanostructures enabling sensing in home appliances as discussed by Electrolux, wearable sensors deployed in clinical trials by Glaxo Smith Kline or the needs and requirements when integrating printed electronics technology in creating newer, lower cost yet robust diagnostic tools as described in detail by Abbot at the conference in Berlin, on the 28th and 29th of April, this is the event on the topic of printed electronics and allied technologies that brings the whole industry together. The conference will also include insight from consumer goods companies such as the Coca Cola Company, electronics giants like Google, Philips and Qualcomm as well as contract manufacturers such as Flex and Jabil, who are following the trends of the times and are morphing into innovators in their own right in order to better serve their customers.