The market for printed electronics is just beginning to emrge. As in the semiconductor market that preceded it, specific applications are legitimizing its acceptance and driving its demand. In some cases, the market applications are near term and dynamic, while others are more long range and evolving. The most ubiquitous and immediate applications concern RFID and OLED displays, which are manufactured using OTFT (organic thin film transistor) technology. These technologies are penetrating a wide number of customer applications, and as costs decline and performance improves, will justify customer switching and, in many cases, implementation of entirely new design solutions.
The printed electronics industry is creating new and original markets not seen since the advent of MP3 players, PDAs, or handheld video games, as per New Venture Research Corp. It also replaces many established products and may provide better functionality and performance at a lower cost. In some cases, as with RFID, printed electronics will drive new demand and consumption by providing more comprehensive accountability, data accuracy and logistical knowledge than exist today�a kind of new super bar-code technology solution. In other situations, such as with new emissive and non-emissive displays powered by organic logic, memory, and sensor input, printed electronics will provide a more original solution than exists with legacy technology. As each individual market begins to mature, it will evolve into much more predictable and measurable segments with regard to behavior and rate of growth. Embryonic markets are initially difficult to size or accurately forecast because of the absence of end user and supplier information. Consequently,ETP expects that future reports will restate some of the market sizes, shares, and pricing as better information is obtained.
Radio Frequency Identification :
The biggest opportunity for printed electronics is in the radio frequency identification (RFID) market, which grew by more than 50% in revenues from 2005 to 2006. The number of field trials within industries such as financial services, airlines, hospitals and postal/government increased substantially in 2006 and is projected to expand by as much as 50% in 2007. Printed electronics is helping drive manufacturing costs down. OTFT technology is being applied to produce low-cost RFID tags consisting of as many as 4,000 transistors, although the majority of tags continue to be manufactured using traditional silicon technology.
The market for OTFT displays is expected to experience dynamic growth similar to that of RFID because of the inherent advantages that printed electronics offers in display technology. OTFT will face very little competition when it comes to manufacturing flexible display devices. OTFT technology will also emerge as a significant replacement to TFT-LCD technology in certain price-sensitive applications. By the end of the ten-year forecast period, printed organic display electronics is expected to dominate the OLED display technology field in terms of cost and performance.
Smart Labels and Intelligent Packaging :
The market for smart or intelligent labels and packaging is one of the largest potential markets for printed electronics in the industry, if the remarkable potential can only be realized. The total available market size vastly exceeds any other potential market, including OLEDs, RFID, semiconductors and photovoltaics, except that the penetration is expected to be significantly less, given the cost obstacles to be overcome. As a result, the percent of penetration of the total available market will remain relatively low, although the total printed electronics market for smart labels and intelligent packaging is expected to be the second largest printed electronics market in 2016 given the scale of the overall packaging market.
Memory, Logic, Sensors :
One of the pivotal elements to the success of the printed electronics industry will be advances in low-cost logic, memory, and related optoelectronic sensing devices utilizing OTFT circuitry. It is of interest that AMD purportedly controls about 80% of the patents for printable, thin film electronics, and the Japanese have moved into overdrive in registering new patents relevant to printed transistors in the last year.
Over the next 10 years, demand for photovoltaic (PV) technology will grow rapidly as the cost for conventional energy increases and becomes less affordable to end users. Moreover, as the cost for PV modules drops, largely due to innovations from printed electronics, consumption of new kinds of PV modules, batteries, rechargeable batteries, solar cells, fuel cells, supercapacitors, and related power generating devices will take off. More importantly, the efficiency of solar conversion devices (which in 2006 had reached approximately 20%) will increase and likely double or more, making printed PV an extremely attractive power source solution. Printed electronics will mainly serve to lower the production costs of PV devices, thus driving significant growth and stimulating demand for cost-sensitive applications such as residential power generation, recreation, security, and transportation.
The market for OTFT/printed electronics is realistically expected to explode over the next ten years. The markets in order of size in 2016 will be RFID, followed by smart labels and intelligent packaging, IC logic/memory and sensors, OLED technology, and finally PV market applications (mostly battery power storage).
According to a technical market-research report from BCC Research, the global market for printed electronics is expected to be worth US$3.1 bln in 2008. This will increase to US$8.8 bln by 2013, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.2%. The market is broken down by application and includes optoelectronics, radio frequency (RF), energy, sensors, and other applications. Optoelectronics applications dominate the market with a share of more than 85% in 2007 and 2008, declining to 69% in 2013. Optoelectronics generated US$2.5 bln in 2007, an estimated US$2.7 bln in 2008 and US$6.1 bln in 2013, for a CAGR of 18.1%. Sensors made up the second largest segment in 2007, with US$375 mln in revenue, and should continue in second place through 2008, generating $423.5 million. Sensors should grow in absolute terms but lose market share over the next five years, declining from 13% of the market to 9.5%. Expected revenue in 2013 is US$842.5 mln, for a CAGR of 14.7%. RF applications are expected to grow from US$10 mln in 2007 to US$18.4 mln in 2008 and US$413 mln in 2013, a CAGR of 86.3%. The energy segment is the fastest-growing segment and is expected to achieve a market share of 16.2% by 2013. Energy applications generated $9 mln in 2007 and are expected to reach US$18.1 mln in 2008. This is expected to increase to US$1.4 bln in 2013, for a CAGR of 139.5%. Other applications are expected to grow at a CAGR of 118.7%, from an estimated US$1 mln in 2008 to US$50 mln in 2013.
Despite this exponential growth curve, printed electronics enthusiasts are not expecting plastic electronics to replace silicon electronics in the near future. Instead printed electronics will enable electronics to be used in products which could not exist with current electronic materials and processing. The printable components are valued at US$1.6 bln. The printed and potentially printed electronics market will increase from its current level of 28% to 80% by 2018. Similarly, in 2008 only 15% of the components are on a non rigid substrate (such as sensors and displays & lighting) and are expected to rise to 75% by 2018. In 2005 the global market for printed electronics was approximately US$650 mln. Over the short term this is expected to increase to US$3 bln by 2009 and US$30 bln by 2015. The market for printed and potentially printed electronics will increase from US$1.5 bln in 2008 to US$45 bln by 2018.
The printed electronics market has an extraordinary upside when compared with traditional market growth opportunities. For the first few years, overall penetration will only be in the single digits, and market evolution will hardly be noticed. This will change quickly as the market potential becomes apparent. Though the printed electronics industry hardly seems viable today, it could well become one of the most exciting and astonishing markets to unfold in the last 40 years.