Table of ContentsIntroductionRevenue-Generating Opportunities in Functional Inkjet Printing The “New” Printed Electronics and the Ink it Needs Inks and Jetted Bio-devices: From Test Strips to Organ Printing Inks for Printing on Non-Standard Substrates: Tiles, Textiles and Beyond Inks for 3D Printing: New Life for Manufacturing Inkjet and Fluid Micro-dispensing: Not Quite PrintingFunctional Fluid Making Opportunities for InkjetAbout Nanomarkets
Inkjet printers lost much of the office market due to low-cost laser printers. Now the inkjet industry is seeking for new opportunities. Presently it has been providing color printers for small business markets and homes at costs that make these printers throwaway items after use. Industrial inkjet printing first for graphics and presently for functional printing is at an early stage of evolution and may be potentially profitable in future. One of the major goals of this NanoMarkets' analysis in the functional inkjet ink space, therefore, is to study the applications possible and to analyze where the revenues will be generated in the functional inkjet inks business over the next eight years.
Here NanoMarkets defines “functional printing” to include any kind of additive process that is intended to create things rather than images. The most significant difference between graphic and functional printing and is that while graphics printing will offer something that is judged by its aesthetics, functional printing will offer something that works.
Revenue-Generating Opportunities in Functional Inkjet Printing
According to NanoMarkets, the revenue-generating opportunities for ink firms in the functional inkjet space fall into five different classes of printing.
- The “New” Printed Electronics and the Ink it Needs
- Inks and Jetted Bio-devices: From Test Strips to Organ Printing
- Inks for printing on Non-Standard Substrates: Tiles, Textiles and Beyond
- Inks for 3D Printing: New Life for Manufacturing
- Inkjet and Fluid Micro-dispensing: Not Quite Printing
The “New” Printed Electronics and the Ink it Needs
This class includes applications from printed silver interconnects between panels or devices to completely printed computing chips.
The success of the thick-film type of functional printing helped fuel the discussions and activities of a few years ago around of the concept of “printed electronics” (PE). PE is a kind of functional printing that supposed to lead to printed devices that were much more complex/smaller than what thick-film technology was and is capable of. PE ensures that fabrication costs will be reduced while fabricating a wide range of devices including displays, sensors, PV panels, batteries, RFID chips, etc.
Inkjet is the preferred choice for PE especially due to its ability to finely pattern. Recently PE has been transformed over the years into a more pragmatic type. The role of inkjet printing is yet to be determined. Being positive, it is ascertained that most firms feel that the new PE will generate high revenues for functional inkjet in the near future. Inkjet can be considered as a maskless technology that is presently an established too in R&D of PE and is ideally suited to make certain devices.
It is assumed that the primary opportunity will be for conductive inks—especially silver inks—but semiconducting and dielectric inks will also be an important part going forward. Printing silicon is been under research for more than 10 years and may be on its way to attainment, but only slowly.
Inks and Jetted Bio-devices: From Test Strips to Organ Printing
The biomedical market is fairly diverse in terms of both applications and in terms of inks. The applications that are usually cited as near-term ones are DNA arrays and diabetic test strips. These are already very high volume products, with good prospects for the future based on current health and demographic trends. Inkjet is already used for both these products.
The use of inkjet is also expected to expand well beyond test strips and arrays. The jetted biosensor market may also expand quite soon. Inkjet may also find applications in regenerative medicine especially in skin and organ printing.
It is contemplated that several materials can be profitably made into jetted bio-inks. Inks have been made out of a wide range or organic molecules (including DNA), proteins, cells, etc., although mostly in a research context. For example, silver inks may well be used in sensors of various kinds.
Inks for printing on Non-Standard Substrates: Tiles, Textiles and Beyond
One application mentioned frequently in this category is that of ceramic inks, that is inks that can coat ceramic substrates particularly tiles with color. Since ceramic is highly porous, special inks are needed. The other non-standard substrate that receives significant attention in the inkjet community is fabric/textile.
These substrates are mostly printed on in order to respond to the customer’s need for a broad range of styles and colors in fabrics, tiles and clothing and to ensure a particular color and pattern is not too widely distributed.
A wide range of specialized inks have been developed for these applications. Pigments used for printing onto ceramic tiles are usually of a large particle size, stable inorganic powders that can withstand a high-temperature firing step (up to 1300°C) required to fuse the powder into the molten surface of the ceramic tile. There are even specialized inkjet printers for ceramic printing, although they use sol-gel inks instead of inorganic pigmented inks. Inkjet technology has the potential to replace existing finishing and coating technologies and create novel materials for the technical textiles sector.
Inks for 3D Printing: New Life for Manufacturing
“3D printing” refers to creating a one-off product, by building up the product one layer at a time. This technique has been available for some time and has mostly been used for prototyping in a wide variety of industries. Since 3D printing can be used for so many applications, the materials used for this kind of functional printing are very diverse. In addition, we note that not all 3D printers are inkjet printers in a conventional sense. There are specialist 3D printers which are inkjet-like in that they have nozzles but for large scale modeling these may enable large amounts of material to be deposited; quite the opposite to standard inkjet.
It must also be noted that most 3D printing is done with more standard industrial inkjet machines and alternative approaches are available. One method of 3D printing is the MIT method, wherein the layers are built up, beginning with powders, but these powders are formed into a solid layer using liquid binders that are deposited with inkjet. An additional resin may also be used to give the finished product more durability. This approach is quick and relatively low cost, but produces rough looking objects and, given the number of materials, is fairly expensive.
Polyjet printing is better than the MIT method. The printers have two or more jetting heads. Typically, one builds the model, while the other jets the support fluids. The support material is a gel-like substance, which is easily washed away. The final model is said to have a smooth finish and be ready for sanding, painting, drilling, or tapping.
Inkjet and Fluid Micro-dispensing: Not Quite Printing
Typically, the use of functional inkjet for micro-dispensing applications is not just to place small amounts of material, but also where they must be dispensed in the form of fine structures such as micro-lines, micro-dots, and three-dimensional structures. Although micro-dispensing isn’t quite printing, this patterning aspect makes the line between microdispensing and printing quite small.
Using inkjet for micro-dispensing has a number of benefits and, of course, which of these advantages matters depends on the particular application. Inket is beneficial as it is a non-contact printing method and hence can dispense onto delicate substrates and it has the ability to cover large areas. Also, it is an on-demand process and conducive for printing multi-layer devices.
Inkjet is considered to be a good microdispensing technology for reagents, enzymes and other fluids that are deposited on biological substrates. Microdispensing using inkjet has been demonstrated with a wide range of viscosity and rheological properties.
Functional Fluid Making Opportunities for Inkjet
The five areas outlined above will present considerable opportunities for materials firms and ink makers to produce fluids suitable for jetting. Nonetheless, NanoMarkets believes that functional jetting is about to see a resurgence.
NanoMarkets believes that there is plenty of room for ink and materials firms to tap into these opportunities. Eventually, these firms will begin offering off-the-shelf inks for functional inkjet, although this opportunity still seems to be one that will not produce significant revenue for quite some time to come; it will have to await the standardization of applications, which seems a long way off.
NanoMarkets is a leading provider of market research and industry analysis of opportunities within advanced materials and emerging energy and electronics markets. Since the firm’s founding, NanoMarkets has published over one hundred comprehensive research reports on emerging technology markets. Topics covered have included OLED displays, lighting and materials, thin-film electronics, conductive inks, transparent conductors, renewable energy, printed electronics and other promising technologies. Our client roster is a who’s who of companies in specialty chemicals, materials, electronics applications and manufacturing.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by NanoMarkets.
For more information on this source, please visit NanoMarkets.