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Market Research Report

Introduction to Printed, Organic and Flexible Electronics

Published by IDTechEx Ltd. Product code 237077
Published Content info 177 Pages
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Introduction to Printed, Organic and Flexible Electronics
Published: December 1, 2012 Content info: 177 Pages

This publication has been discontinued on December 7, 2016.


Printed electronics is a term that encompasses thin film transistor circuits (TFTCs), displays, interconnects, power, sensors and even actuators. Over one thousand companies have now entered this market. These printing, materials, paper and chemical companies of today will be the new electronic giants tomorrow. This report introduces the technologies, companies, timelines and opportunities for those looking to get involved in the subject.

Here, for the first time is the big picture, including how printed electronics is the gateway to edible, foldable, rollable, conformal, wearable, biodegradable and other electronics and electrics. It covers the future of lighting and the newly created mass markets for disposable electronics and affordable solar cells in vast areas but it also covers the impediments to some rollouts including materials shortages and incremental improvements to existing products instead of "thinking outside the box". For the first few years it will be "electronic printing", mainly replacing print such as barcodes, books, signage and billboards not electronics and this is explained with a profusion of examples.

This report is vital reading to understand the opportunity of the technology, players, needs and timelines, giving global coverage. It is a sister publication to Printed & Organic Electronics Forecasts, Players and Opportunities 2012-2022 which focusses on forecasts.

All significant developments in printed electronics are closely analysed in this report. Unusually, we also look at the many printed electronic devices and displays - electrochromic, electroluminescent, etc. - that are already a commercial reality even on flexible substrates, not just the promise of so-called OLEDs. Today's successes also employ conductors, batteries, inductors, antennas, capacitors and electrically active materials that are printed. The moving colour billboard, the gift card and the smart skin patch that are printed on flexible plastic are a reality today and there are lessons to be learned. Other advances are close behind, including printed thin film fuel cells and lasers. Later will come self-adjusting ‘use by' dates, printed microprocessors, ubiquitous printed lighting and other wonders, including printing electronics directly onto things. All this is explained in simple language.

For the first time, this report describes the technical and market development and the many new applications, new suppliers and new users being created as a result. There are many comparison tables and new and dramatic illustrations from the smart airport to the next smart military aircraft, the car interior of the next Jaguar car and even examples of electronics as art - newly made possible. Nothing is more up to date than this compelling read.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



  • 2.1. Definition and destination
    • 2.1.1. Background
    • 2.1.2. Stretchable Electronics
    • 2.1.3. Rollable electronics
    • 2.1.4. Foldable electronics
    • 2.1.5. Edible electronics
    • 2.1.6. Interactive paper
    • 2.1.7. Ubiquitous Sensor Networks
    • 2.1.8. Electronic packaging
    • 2.1.9. Conformal electronics / electronic wallpaper
    • 2.1.10. Wearable and very portable electronics
    • 2.1.11. Old concepts revisited - fault tolerant electronics, hard programmed electronics
    • 2.1.12. Electronics without circuits
  • 2.2. The technical needs for printed electronics
    • 2.2.1. Replacing and enhancing conventional print
    • 2.2.2. Replacing the silicon chip
    • 2.2.3. Replacing conventional displays
    • 2.2.4. Replacing conventional lighting
    • 2.2.5. Transforming the human interface and new forms of safety and security
    • 2.2.6. New forms of amusement and merchandising
    • 2.2.7. New forms of drug delivery
    • 2.2.8. Products that are light, rugged and extremely low cost
  • 2.3. Smart locations
  • 2.4. Industries that need to collaborate
  • 2.5. Value chain and life beyond plastic electronics
  • 2.6. Interim products with silicon chips
  • 2.7. Impediments to printed electronics


  • 3.1. Substrates
  • 3.2. Conductors
    • 3.2.1. Choice of conductors
    • 3.2.2. Printing with inks - the options
    • 3.2.3. Progress with conductive inks
  • 3.3. Semiconductors


  • 4.1. Logic
    • 4.1.1. Transistor design
    • 4.1.2. Development path
    • 4.1.3. Company strategy and value chain
  • 4.2. Memory


  • 5.1. Display technologies
  • 5.2. Non-emissive displays
    • 5.2.1. Thermochromic
    • 5.2.2. Electrochromic
    • 5.2.3. Electrophoretic
    • 5.2.4. Electrowetted displays
    • 5.2.5. Electrochemical displays on paper
  • 5.3. Emissive displays
    • 5.3.1. AC Electroluminescent
    • 5.3.2. OLED


  • 6.1. AC electroluminescent lighting
  • 6.2. OLED lighting


  • 7.1. Photovoltaics
  • 7.2. Batteries
    • 7.2.1. Button batteries vs laminar batteries
    • 7.2.2. Choices of laminar battery
    • 7.2.3. Applications of laminar batteries
    • 7.2.4. Infinite Power Solutions
    • 7.2.5. Solicore, USA
    • 7.2.6. Blue Spark
    • 7.2.7. Rocket Electric
    • 7.2.8. Printed battery research
  • 7.3. Fuel cells


  • 8.1. General situation and examples
  • 8.2. Photodetector arrays
    • 8.2.1. Printed flexible scanners
  • 8.3. Printing metamaterials


  • 9.1. General scenario to 2030
  • 9.2. OLEDs
  • 9.3. The big challenge - the emerging value chain is unbalanced



  • 2.1. Some factors driving the rapid growth of printed electronics
  • 2.2. Progress in making printed and thin film components
  • 2.3. Examples of printing technologies used for printed electronics
  • 2.4. Some organizations developing wearable electronics are shown
  • 3.1. Choices of process for printed and thin film conductor
  • 3.2. Examples of development work on printed conductive technology
  • 3.3. Evolution of conductive ink 2003-2006
  • 4.1. Overall choices of semiconductor
  • 4.2. Typical carrier mobility in different potential TFTC semiconductors (actual and envisaged) vs higher mobility silicon, not printable
  • 4.3. Some organisations that are developing TFTCs and their priorities
  • 4.4. Some of the small group of contestants for large capacity printed memory
  • 5.1. Some new and established display technologies compared
  • 5.2. Advantages and disadvantages of electrophoretic displays
  • 5.3. Examples of companies developing OLEDs
  • 5.4. Advantages and disadvantages of ink jet printing of OLEDs
  • 7.1. The leading photovoltaic technologies compared
  • 7.2. Efficiency and commercialization dates of laminar organic, CdTe and DSSC photovoltaics
  • 7.3. Performance of various types of photovoltaic cell compared
  • 7.4. Some recent results for inorganic and organic-fullerene photovoltaic cells and commercialisation
  • 7.5. Shapes of battery for small RFID tags advantages and disadvantages
  • 7.6. Examples of suppliers of button batteries by country
  • 7.7. The spectrum of choice of technologies for laminar batteries
  • 7.8. Examples of potential sources of flexible thin film batteries
  • 7.9. Some examples of marketing thrust for laminar batteries
  • 7.10. Examples of universities and research centres developing laminar batteries
  • 8.1. Examples of companies developing organic sensors and other components and their main emphasis
  • 9.1. Examples of possible sales of printed and part printed electronic devices in 2022
  • 9.2. Possible breakdown of the market for printed and potentially printed electronics in 2032 by numbers and value
  • 9.3. Timeline for OLEDs to beat conventional lighting on power, cost and flexibility 2012-2022


  • 1.1. Growth in sales of silicon chips by value compared with growth in sales of printed and thin film electronic components
  • 1.2. Examples of the radically new capabilities of printed electronics
  • 1.3. Morphing electronics
  • 1.4. Types of early win and longer term project involving printed electronics 1995-2025
  • 1.5. Unbalanced printed electronics supply chain in 2012 rapidly being corrected by interest from consumer packaged goods, electrical goods and other sectors
  • 1.6. How printed electronics is being applied to products
  • 1.7. A simplified summary of where organic (in red), inorganic (in dark green) and both types of chemistry are popular (light green)
  • 1.8. Choices of chemistry
  • 1.9. BlueSpark printed manganese dioxide zinc battery supporting integral antenna and interconnects.
  • 1.10. Examples of printed electronics creating new products
  • 2.1. Four generations of printed and thin film electronics
  • 2.2. The three main benefits of printed electronics, where the third stage of printing directly on to things hugely improves functionality and saves materials
  • 2.3. Some of the radically new capabilities powered by printed electronics
  • 2.4. Stretchable Thermometer from the Stella Project
  • 2.5. Shuttered rollable calculator using screen printed touchpad
  • 2.6. Unrollable personal device
  • 2.7. Origami electronics from Linkoping University Sweden
  • 2.8. Foldable solar panels from Orion Solar Israel
  • 2.9. Foldable photovoltaic chargers from Konarka
  • 2.10. Electronic printing on tablets
  • 2.11. Interactive paper from the EU Superinks project. shown on left and, on right, smart package with printed touch sensor, blinking display and synthetic voice realized by ACREO in cooperation with AddMarkable AB
  • 2.12. The demographic timebomb
  • 2.13. Concept of a smart package showing clearly that the contents have expired
  • 2.14. Concept of a package monitoring the condition of the user and acting accordingly
  • 2.15. Next possible development of smart pill dispensing
  • 2.16. The interactive game card and its terminal. The card has 16-bits printed
  • 2.17. Some developments come later because they are tougher to achieve
  • 2.18. Calculator embedded in book
  • 2.19. Power Paper disposable paper timer
  • 2.20. Ceiling lighting in the Mercedes Maybach
  • 2.21. Concepts of improved cockpit display
  • 2.22. Smart package projecting information
  • 2.23. Sensing, talking pot noodle
  • 2.24. Power Paper partly printed toys
  • 2.25. Slap on Slap Messenger communicator wristband licensed to Hasbro
  • 2.26. Concept of a future printed tearoff
  • 2.27. The percentage level of non-compliance by type of affliction
  • 2.28. Smart skin patches
  • 2.29. Compliance recording blisterpack with printed sensors and interconnects as used with 30,000 patients in the national Institutes of Health trial of the drug Azithromycin in 2006
  • 2.30. Price sensitivity curve for RFID
  • 2.31. Progression of potential markets for RFID
  • 2.32. Smart home
  • 2.33. Smart subway
  • 2.34. Smart shop
  • 2.35. Smart office
  • 2.36. Smart airport
  • 2.37. Industries seeking to collaborate
  • 2.38. Examples of how the printing and electronics industries are collaborating
  • 2.39. Typical value chain for printed electronics
  • 2.40. Theoretical importance of OLEDs
  • 2.41. Cypak smart postal package recording time of penetration
  • 2.42. KSW Microtec time temperature recording label
  • 2.43. Inflatable pillow radio by T-Ink
  • 2.44. Examples of RFID tags by frequency and incidence of printed antennas
  • 2.45. The varied impediments to rollout of thin film electronics
  • 3.1. Change in stiffness of PET vs PEN substrate material with temperature
  • 3.2. Biaxially oriented crystalline film
  • 3.3. Choices of substrate for printed electronics
  • 3.4. Factors influencing film choice- property set
  • 3.5. Some candidate materials for flexible substrates
  • 3.6. Choice of printing machine for silver antennas in RFID labels
  • 3.7. Development path for conductors
  • 3.8. Amorphous silicon thin film transistor array on polymer film, a precursor of true printing of silicon
  • 4.1. Traditional geometry for a field effect transistor
  • 4.2. The Plastic E print process
  • 4.3. Structure of SSD diode and device operation
  • 4.4. Options for high speed, low-cost printing of TFTCs
  • 4.5. Example of ZnO based transistor circuit
  • 4.6. Value chain for TFTCs and examples of migration of activity for players
  • 4.7. An all-organic permanent memory transistor
  • 4.8. Thinfilm memory compared with the much more complex DRAM in silicon
  • 4.9. Structure of Thinfilm memory
  • 5.1. Duracell battery tester
  • 5.2. Interactive game on a beer package by VTT Technologies in Finland
  • 5.3. Thermochromic display on a Valentine's card sold by Marks and Spencer in the UK in 2004 and thermochromic display with drive circuits in a laminate for smart cards
  • 5.4. Principle of operation of electrophoretic displays
  • 5.5. Electrophoretic display on a commercially sold financial card
  • 5.6. A Polymer Vision experimental rollable display
  • 5.7. Droplet contracting and relaxing from Liquavista
  • 5.8. Droplet driven electrowetting displays from adt, Germany
  • 5.9. Display on an EnOcean wireless switch
  • 5.10. The dollhouse. When energy is added to the system the colour of the wallpaper changes and a picture appears on the wall
  • 5.11. Two state electrolytic display on paper
  • 5.12. Seven segment display printed with bi-stable inks
  • 5.13. A designer and her concept of an ac electroluminescent window that becomes a decorative pattern as the sun rises
  • 5.14. Animated AC electroluminescent screens with switching images
  • 5.15. Animated AC electroluminescent billboards on plastic film with sequential images emitting light and giving illusion of movement
  • 5.16. Switched billboard using AC electroluminescent film to give illusion of movement - a Microsoft promotion
  • 5.17. Coyopa rum with four segment sequentially switched pictures
  • 5.18. TV controller
  • 5.19. Switched image on face of Fossil watch
  • 5.20. The new Pelikon display tolerant of bright sunlight is shown left with the old display right.
  • 5.21. AC electroluminescent apparel
  • 5.22. A promotional display with sequentially switching images used at DeBeers in London
  • 5.23. Car instrument illumination by electroluminescent display
  • 5.24. Example of Quantum Paper light emitting paper displaying an advertisement
  • 5.25. Basic structure of an OLED
  • 5.26. Samsung OLED television, Philips OLED shaver and Eastman Kodak OLED camera.
  • 5.27. A 14 inch CDT flexible, ink jet printed phosphorescent OLED (P-OLED) display
  • 5.28. LEP process flow
  • 6.1. Motion lighting concept
  • 6.2. Boardroom lighting in Alcatel France that switches to various modes
  • 6.3. EL decor, signage and instrumentation in the new Jaguar concept model
  • 6.4. Signage for jump jets
  • 6.5. Animated EL artwork in a two meter suspended ball for event lighting
  • 6.6. Educational AC electroluminescent floor covering
  • 6.7. Value chain for manufacture of OLEDs for lighting and signage
  • 6.8. Experimental OLED lights
  • 6.9. Timeframe for creation of improved, flexible OLED lighting
  • 7.1. Some of the overlapping requirements for photovoltaics
  • 7.2. PV efficiencies
  • 7.3. Operating principle of fullerene organic photovoltaics
  • 7.4. Construction of a traditional bulk heterojunction organic photovoltaic cell
  • 7.5. Module stack for photovoltaics
  • 7.6. Infinite Power Solutions batteries.
  • 7.7. Reel to reel screen printing of Blue Spark batteries
  • 7.8. Construction of Rocket Electric paper batteries
  • 8.1. Plastic film scanner with no moving parts
  • 8.2. How negative refractive index works
  • 8.3. How to make a working printed metamaterial
  • 9.1. Printed electronics market breakdown in 2030
  • 9.2. Global market for organic electronics 2006-2030
  • 9.3. The potential annual global sales of each type by 2032 in US$ billions
  • 9.4. Timeline for bulk materials, nano materials and quantum dots in printed electronics 2007-2017
  • 9.5. The emerging value chain is unbalanced
  • 9.6. Those going to market first move right
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