Flexible Applications Based on Printed Electronics Technologies

  • February 2013
  • -
  • Yole Developpement
  • -
  • 210 pages


Today flexible & printed electronics create a lot of hope. And a supply chain is being created to support an industrial infrastructure. In our report, we have identified and tracked the five main functionalities of flexible & printed electronics: displaying, sensing, lighting, energy generating and substrates. The different degrees of freedom in flexibility that can be obtained can be divided into:
• Conformable substrate: the flexible substrate will be shaped in a definitive way after processing
• “Bendable” substrate: they can be rolled and bent many times (even if we consider it will not
be a key feature coming from customer needs)
• “Unused” flexibility: in the end, the flexibility is not an added value to the customer

We believe some applications will be more likely than other to be successful – for example, bendable applications will undergo tough stress during use and technological challenges will be hard to overcome. Our report shows the distinction between the functions (displaying, lighting, energy conversion, sensing & substrates) and the seek flexibility “degree of freedom”. We do not make the distinction in our report between organic and inorganic substrates as semiconductors can also be used as flexible substrates.

However, we believe over the next several years, the number of applications using printing processes for flexible electronics will grow.

We estimate the printed & flexible electronics market will grow from ~ $176M in 2013 to ~ $950M in 2020 with a 27% CAGR in market value. Printed OLED displays for large size (TVs) are likely to become the largest market. For OLED lighting, we believe it will grow but remain a niche market for automotive and/ or office lighting. For PV, the market demand by 2020 will remain very low compared to the demand for rigid PV, largely below 1% of the global market demand by 2020. Sensor, smart system & polytronic applications will include sensors, touchless / touch screens, RF ID applications.


Printed & flexible electronics is a new exiting technology with large potential market expectations. Indeed, as semiconductors move to the very small with 22nm critical dimension, printed electronics moves to the other end of the spectrum with its own material, equipment, process challenges and supply chain. Printed electronics will not kill semiconductor electronics as it will not be a replacement for CMOS silicon. However, it will create new industry segments and new classes of applications with unique features, benefits and costs that cannot be addressed with conventional semiconductor electronics.

For example, we believe printing technologies will also allow additional properties such as flexibility. Originally, the general vision for printed electronics was the possibility to print low cost electronic components on any substrate. It was supposed to allow low cost, low efficiency, large volume electronics manufacturing, and it was supposed to create a large multiplicity of applications. Flexible electronics appeared quite soon after envisaging printability. Such devices were supposed to allow new applications directly linked to flexibility.

Moreover, the coming of polytronic technologies is a disruptive approach that could change the way printed & flexible electronic devices will be manufactured. It can be considered a new alternative to the “More Moore” approach where Si ICs, thin fi lms, micro batteries, displays etc … will be embedded in a flexible substrate. The global interest in polytronics is born from the difficulties faced by the flexible & printed electronics industry. It is an alternate way to come to similar results while trying to avoid some of the main challenges.


We have identified strong technical challenges for the printed & flexible electronics industry to overcome if it is to be successful. Today it is still more technopush rather than market-pull. Printed and flexible electronics are still looking for high throughput, high resolution deposition techniques in order to become suitable for other markets than just a few niche highend applications. For example, a big bottleneck is an efficient barrier technology. Indeed, to be successful, the main technical challenge in the short term lies in finding a good barrier technology: encapsulation materials are not so good on flexible substrates.

Solution printing process flow is composed of three main steps: ink/coating creation, deposition and curing. Ink chemistry is application dependent, and various precursors can be used for the same application. The nature of the ink / coating will define what kind of process can or cannot be used.

For example, only inks containing very thin particles can be used for inkjet printing (typically < 100nm particle for 1μm diameter nozzles). In the same way, deposition methods induce specifi c requirements in terms of viscosity. Deposition techniques vary, but most of them are not yet adapted to large volume, low cost printed electronics. Thermal processing is required in order to crystallize the ink. Curing temperature and time are critical factors for printed electronics manufacturing as organic materials are very sensitive to high temperatures.
For printed and flexible electronics, every application has its own challenges. For example, fl exibility challenges for small screen OLEDs are:
• Expensive encapsulation with slow manufacturing processes today
• Low number of material suppliers
• No high throughput equipment
• Still high cost etc …

To achieve printability, there are additional challenges: the need for efficient materials (long lifetime, good printability, good conductivity etc…), need for efficient processes and cost effective manufacturing equipment, for example.


• For systems makers:
- Understand the potential of the printed electronics market
- Understand the technical challenges
• For devices makers:
- Identify and evaluate the printed electronic markets with market size & growth
- Analyze the threads and opportunities
- Monitor and benchmark your competitor’s advancements
• For chemical & tool companies:
- Identify what are the technical hurdles for printed electronics
- Analyze the threads and opportunities
• For financial & Strategic investors:
- Understand the main market dynamics and technological trends
- Get the list of key players

What ’s new

• Up-to-date market forecast 2013-2020 in US$M and surface for printed, flexible, and printed & flexible applications:
- Displays
- Lighting
- Photovoltaics
- Sensors & smart systems
- Substrates
• Function vs. flexibility analysis
• Manufacturing process analysis
• Current technical & economical challenges
- Roadmaps
- Manufacturing trends
- Players
• Update on new approach: polytronics


• Flexible and printed electronics market forecast 2013 - 2020
• Application roadmaps & timelines
• Detailed manufacturing process flows
• Technical challenges
• Analyzed applications: displays, lighting, photovoltaics, sensing, substrates
• Polytronics & smart systems

Who should be interested in this report?

•Systems makers
–Understand the potentialities of the printed electronics market
–Understand the technical challenges
•Devices makers
–Identify and evaluate printed electronics markets with market size & growth
–Analyze the threads and opportunities
–Monitor and benchmark your competitor’s advancements
•Chemical & tools companies
–Identify what the technical hurdles for printed electronics are
–Analyze the threads and opportunities
•Financial & Strategic investors
–Understand the main market dynamics and main technological trends
–Get the list of the key players


3M, Add-Vision, AGC, AGFA, Air Products, Aixtron, Altadevices, Applied materials, Arjowiggins, Arkema, Armor, Astron Flamm, Asys Solar, BASF, Beneq, Bosch, Boschmann, Cabot, Cambrios, Canatu, Canon, Catrene, CEA LITEN, Central Standard Timing, Ceradrop, Ceres, Chimet, CIT, CNM, Creative Materials, DEK, DisaSolar, DNP, DOW, Dupont, Dupont Teijin, Dyesol, Dynamic Organic Light, Eight 19, E-ink, Elecon, EMPA, EnFuCell, enthone, Epson, EVG, evonik, Flisom, Fraunhofer, Fuji Film, G24i, GE, GEM, Global Solar, Global Solar Energy Deutschland GmbH (GSED), Haiku Tech, HC Starck, Heliatek, HelioVolt, Heraeus, HMI, Honeywell, IMEC, Inca Digital Printers, Infineon, Infinite Power solutions, Inkoa, InkTec, ISET, ISORG, JRT, Konarka, Konica Minolta, Kovio, KUL, KWJ Engineering, LG, Liquavista, LPKF, manroland, Markandy, MEMC, Merck, MiaSolé, Micro-tec, Mitsubishi Chemical, Monocrystal, moserbaer, Nano ePrint, Nanoink, Nanomas, Nanosolar, NextInput, Novacentrix, NTC, Ntera, Nuon Helianthos, Nuvosun, NVC, NXP, Odersun, Optomec, Optony, Ormecon, Ormet, Osram, Panasonic, PEMCO, Pioneer, PixDro, Philips, Plastic Logic, Plextronics, Polymer Vision, Prelonic Technologies, Prime View International, Rena, Rolith, SAES, Sakurai, Samsung, Schreiner, Showa Denko, Skiff, Solarion, Solaronix, Sony, SouthWest Nanotechnologies, Sumitomo Chemical, Tianma, TNO, Toppan, TU Delft, Unidym, UniSolar, Veeco, Verhaert, Vitex, Von Ardenne, Vorbeck Materials, VTT, Wageningen University, Yotaphone

Table Of Contents


• Content of the report 2

• Scope of the report and definitions 3
> Key objectives 4
> Coverage 5
> Definitions 6
> What’s new in this report update? 7
> Who should be interested in this report? 8
> Companies cited 9
> About the authors 10

• Executive summary 11
> Application landscape 12
> Players landscape 30
> Market 35

• Introduction 39

• 2012-2020 market forecast 52

• Applications overview 67
> Displays 68
- Time to market
- Applications and markets segments
- Small OLEDs
- Large OLEDs
- E-papers
- Market forecast
- Conclusions
> Lighting 90
- Time to market
- Applications and markets segments
- Cost
- Potential advantages
- Comparison with other light sources
- Roadmap
- Market forecast
- Conclusions
> Photovoltaic 116
- Time to market
- Introduction
- Overview of technologies
- Why flexible?
- Why printed?
- Technologies and players
- Market metrics
- Market forecast
- Conclusions
> Sensors and substrates 148
- Time to market
- Introduction
- Polytronics
- Surfing on the hype
- Examples
- Market forecast
- Conclusions
> Players landscape 165
> Processing technologies 171
- Main technical challenges
- Printed organic vs. semiconductors
- Printing technologies
- Small OLEDs processes
- Large OLEDs processes
- OLEDs lighting processes
- PV processes

• Conclusions 206

• Appendices 209
> Yole Developpement presentation 210

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