The IDTechEx event Printed Electronics USA in San Jose CA December 1-4 retained its position as the world's largest gathering on the subject with 25% growth on the year before. 910 delegates flew in from 25 countries and there were 85 exhibitors, 100 presenters, 8 Masterclasses and many visits in Silicon Valley to centers of excellence in this "next big thing".
Remarkable growth of Printed Electronics USA
Printed electronics has broadened in all respects, since it represents a significant part of the future of electrics (lighting, batteries, solar cells etc) not just electronics. Improved supercapacitors have now been printed using carbon nanotubes (CNT) and there are wide area supercapacitors. New hybrid graphene-CNT and buckyball-CNT devices offer stellar performance. Zinc oxide and nanosilicon transistors show improvements of up to one million times in certain parameters and printed 100Ghz and terahertz devices were reported.
Printing copper ink is at last a reality. The choice of printed flexible display technologies has widened but profitable sales of the older printed ac electroluminescent displays are now boosted by many significant improvements announced in the last year. Radical new components such as memristors and metamaterial devices have been printed on flexible substrates - the main market need. Printing two or more different types of component on one flexible substrate is now commonplace and flexible liquid crystal displays made reel to reel is a new breakthrough. New paradigms such as stretchable and invisible electronics come closer.
All this is only possible thanks to a huge and consistent investment by many chemical and materials companies. An increasing number of these organisations have recently widened their repertoire by backing organic, inorganic and composite inks. The increasing virtuosity of those developing the special printing machines was also in evidence, including ink jet, flexo, nano-imprinting, nano-inscribing etc. Printing and annealing on low cost, low temperature film and paper was a focus.
Commenting on the conference, IDTechEx chairman Dr Peter Harrop noted that, "Flexible photovoltaics variously based on amorphous silicon (aSi), copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS), dye sensitised solar cells (DSSC) and organic technology is now a reality. All have their place in the burgeoning solar market. These days, it is as much about potential use on healthcare, consumer and other disposables as on power station replacement. We are at last registering what Thomas Edison said about generating electricity where it is needed. New printed rechargeable and single use batteries reported at the event are also a part of that."
An increasing number of participants reported profits this year. Little wonder that there were far more end users than ever before and they came from all applicational sectors, from military to consumer packaged goods, healthcare and apparel. They reported widening adoption and showed keen interest in what comes next and printing and publishing companies and others were looking for openings. Market pull has arrived and ultra low cost devices are only part of this story. Indeed, this is mainly about making new things possible.