Frost & Sullivan: Price sensitivity prompts innovations in printed electronics

High production volumes are critical to justify investment in the technology.

Printed electronics are rapidly gaining popularity across applications for their benefits of low cost, high throughput, ease of manufacturing, and use in new applications. Industries are strongly backing innovations in this domain due to the technology’s ability to enable different low-end commercial applications by complementing, instead of replacing, silicon microelectronics.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Global Printed Electronics Market—Analyzing the True Potential, finds that the market earned revenue of over $321.8 million in 2010 and estimates this to reach $943.7 million in 2017.

Printed electronics companies can tap into fresh application sectors by making the manufacturing process efficient and affordable. Printing technologies are receiving increased attention from numerous application sectors since they can be patterned on any substrate by using various functional materials. The substrates include flexible media such as paper, textiles, and plastics.

“Investors are increasingly drawn to the printed electronics market due to its low cost of entry and technological knowhow of conventional printing. The conventional printing methods are already mastered and thus reduces chances of any anomaly with the process” said Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Nupur Sinha. “The market is als attracting greater investments and support from both organizations and governments, as it aids the production of green electronics by utilizing bio-degradable and recyclable materials.”

Investors in the printed electronics market will seek high production volumes from the technology, but some techniques such as screen and inkjet printing are relatively slow, which makes them unsuitable for high-volume manufacturing. Soft lithographic techniques used for devices like transistors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, and wearable electronics also have limited production volumes.

Currently, there not a one-size-fits-all solution in the market but there are several niche technologies. As such, printed electronics developers are working on enhancing their product design and integration in order to attract investors from high-volume markets.

Furthermore, developers need to lock down a manufacturing technique. Though roll-to-roll printing is effective, other processes involved in the manufacture of the end product needs improvements. Additionally, new techniques still do not have an established method for replicating lab processes while experimenting on press.

“Printed electronic manufacturers can overcome these issues by coating or encapsulating organic materials in a protective barrier to make them less vulnerable to environment hazards,” noted Sinha. “Various combinations of polymer materials could also be tested for optimum efficiency and stability, based on their respective end-user application.”