Printed electronics (sometimes referred to as PE) represent a growing technology for fabricating electronic devices on materials such as paper, plastic, and textiles using electrically functional inks in combination with standard printing processes such as screen printing, offset lithography, and ink-jet printing. Printed electronics are steadily proving that they have the potential to bring about a revolution in electronic applications.
Proponents of the technology initially emphasized printed electronics’ ability to make many electronic devices more inexpensively and more quickly than conventional silicon-based electronics technologies. Printed electronics’ simpler research and development (R&D) and manufacturing process can reduce the capital cost of a fabrication plant by several times and also decrease the time to market new products from several months to a couple of weeks.
Later, proponents emphasized the advantages of printed electronics in terms of light weight and portability. They talked of a hypothetical mobile phone the size and shape of a fountain pen, with both display and keyboard printed on a snap-back roller. The same snap-back roller would generate and store electricity from light and heat.
Today, the potentially revolutionary character of printed electronics lies not only in their low cost, ease of manufacturing, and small size and light weight. It also lies in the ability of printed electronics to facilitate applications that are not feasible and/or are uneconomical with conventional silicon-based electronics. Flexible displays, smart labels, and animated signage are examples of such applications. Therefore, printed electronics has not only enhanced existing markets, but is also creating new market opportunities.
Commercial production of printed electronics, which is currently valued at a few billion dollars, is projected by some analysts to increase to tens of billions of dollars in the next 10 years. This report will take a hard look at these projections in order to determine the realistic market outlook for printed electronics. In the process, it will offer insights as to where the most valuable opportunities exist in the printed electronics value chain, i.e., in applications, basic printed electronics devices, manufacturing, or materials.
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