Table of ContentsIntroductionA Changing Landscape – FinallySignificant Materials TrendsKey Manufacturing TrendsChallenges and Important QuestionsAbout NanoMarkets
Based on research conducted for the last couple of years, NanoMarkets expects that the organic thin-film transistor industry may be on the verge of a second renaissance.
It is anticipated that there will be enhanced material performance, an integrated manufacturing and supply chain will be established and a viable market for applications that will take advantage from the print-, low-cost and solution-compatible capabilities of polymeric and organic materials will emerge. Some applications are:
- Smart packaging, such as personal care, medical and pharmaceutical packaging
- Interactive media, such as gadgets like greeting cards, simple toys, and inexpensive games
- Branding and security in which printed electronics is a value-added component deployed for reduction of and/or enhance product or safety compliance
- Tagging and smartcards, in which printed electronics may be incorporated for logistics, tracking, and/or payment applications and
- Display backplanes based on printed electronics or organic components
Plastic electronics promises that it will bring in an era of pervasive or ubiquitous communication and computing across a range of sectors, which include those that are not conventionally considered the electronics realm such as security, branding and packaging.
A Changing Landscape – Finally
Previously, this market was more considered as a laboratory curiosity or probably a future technology with no clear direction towards commercialization. For a number of years, the performance, particularly the mobility of the organic materials in these devices is very low to help approach widespread adoption in organic electronics and the production methods were tougher and more expensive that thought initially.
However, it is now believed that NanoMarkets will be able to change this pattern based on both enhancing material performance as well as maturing of device manufacturers.
Significant Materials Trends
The following are the significant materials trends:
- There has been a significant increase in performance of certain important materials, especially the semiconductor mobilities, but also the processing windows and processability of the materials since NanoMarkets’ last report on this subject. It is now possible to obtain arrays of OFETs/OTFTs with a large number of small-sized components with considerable power.
- n-type organic semiconductors are now available with considerably good mobility increasing the size of the potentially addressable market since complementary circuit design in OFETs/OTFTs is possible. Complementary circuit design ensures less poer consumption, simplicity, and enhanced performance when compared to non-complementary, p-type only designs.
- Technology developers and materials suppliers do not just include startups like Polyera (U.S.) and Plextronics (U.S.), but also significant international chemical giants like Germany’s Merck/EMD and BASF.
Key Manufacturing Trends
Key manufacturing trends include the following:
- The main focus of the industry is towards process enhancement and implementing the basic printed/organic electronics components into systems suitable for making real-world products.
- The current focus is more on developing fully integrated end-user products and less on stand-alone prototype fabrication and this is done by forming constructive partnerships across the supply chain. These partnerships hold importance especially in smart packaging and associated applications where a simple OFET/OTFT component is of no use unless it comes with other components like batteries, sensors, memories, software and communication capability.
- Industry pioneer Plastic Logic (Germany) has survived a difficult development phase and has failed to succeed in the e-reader market, and is now set to start more widely offering viable plastic electronics technologies.
These trends and achievements show that products and devices incorporating OFET/OTFT devices will generate significant revenues in the near future. According to NanoMarkets, the next two years will be crucial to prove that profitable applications for OTFTs/OFETs are attainable.
Eventually even if there are two decent-sized orders in the short term, it will be possible to suggest that OFETs/OTFTs and/or organic memories can reach break even status in a period of three to four years and establish profitability in the long term.
Challenges and Important Questions
Certain important challenges to be met and questions that need to be answered include:
- Smart packaging and security/branding markets are relatively new markets for electronic components. Success will depend on realizing low-cost/high-volume production and it is not sure whether adopting plastic electronics will be cost-effective.
- OTFTs/OFETs have been used in RFID demonstrators and smart packaging proof-of-concept devices. Overall, RFID applications using OTFTs/OFETs and organic memories were not very successful, as the materials could not be economically deployed to meet industry RFID standards.
- The major early application for OTFT/OFET backplanes was expected in electrophoretic (e-paper) devices, e-paper displays were expected to be a proving ground for OTFT/OFET backplanes that would translate into later success in the broader flexible display market.
- Furthermore the exit of Plastic Logic from the e-reader business indicates that there is still much to do to make OTFT/OFET-driven displays a reality, and may portend a future in which e-readers based on electrophoretic displays are in real trouble, as they are increasingly being supplanted by the booming tablet market.
- Printed silicon materials, for instance from PragmatIC (U.K.), Kovio (U.S.) and similar companies are a threat to organic and polymer materials in printed electronic components. Also solution-processed metal oxide materials are being developed.
- Clearly, printed silicon- and solution-processed metal-oxide-based electronics, while inorganic, are still categorized as printed, and are designed for compatibility with plastic and flexible substrates, and with high volume/low-cost deposition methods.
- Other material types, including graphene, carbon nanotubes (CNTs), and other carbon nanomaterials, while still far away from reality may also be part of the picture in the future, as could be for inorganic/organic hybrid materials.
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.
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