June 27, 2007 We've written before about printable electronics, a relatively new field in which common printing techniques are used in conjunction with conductive electronic inks to mass-produce extremely thin, flexible and cheap electronic circuits. The technology has been producing breakthroughs in flexible e-paper displays, smart labels such as RFID tags, animated posters and active clothing. Industry analysts are encouraged by the quick take-up of the technology, as well as growing research into future uses - and are predicting that more than 15,000 specialized printable electronics printers will ship between 2007 and 2013.
The growing number of new plants designed to produce printed electronics products such as displays, backplanes, RFID tags, sensors and photovoltaic cells, coupled with escalating R&D; activity in this field will provide a huge boost for firms supplying related printing equipment. This is according to a new report from NanoMarkets, an industry analyst firm based in Virginia. NanoMarkets' new report forecasts that between 2007 and 2013, a total of 15,000 printers will be shipped for printed electronics applications.
Key findings from the report include:
- As demand for PE grows, there will be a switch to high-volume traditional printing methods such as flexography, offset and gravure. By 2013, almost 75 percent of printing machines supplied for factories making PE products will fall into this category.
- There will be an escalating need for smaller R&D; machines for industrial laboratories and the growing number of educational establishments that include printable electronics courses in their curriculum. Over 70 percent of the machines shipped for R&D; and educational purposes will be ink jet printers.
- Screen printing - which has traditionally been the technique that has been used to print electronics - will lose market share as PE moves from "thick film" to "thin-film" technology. By 2013, screen will account for only 18 percent of electronics printers shipped compared with 30 percent now.
- The addition of new printers to the PE industry's installed base will boost its manufacturing capacity from negligible amounts today to around 400 million square meters by the end of 2013, sufficient to produce almost $40 billion in printed electronics products.