Nowadays, the term printed electronics is taken to include truly printed
electronics but also thin film electronics that is potentially printable.
Anything less and you miss the big picture. We include low cost electrical
and electronic circuits with layers below 30 microns thick, even if
currently deposited by vacuum techniques, spin coating, etc. Silicon chips
and thin film silicon are not included because they are not potentially
printable. However, the main emphasis is on circuits, interconnects and
components already made with printing equipment, at least in part.
Smart Media Products
Most of the potential for printed electronics lies in what Toppan Forms
calls Smart Media Products (SMP) which will often be intelligent and mass
producible yet often customisable as well. They will usually be used at the
human interface or connected to networks and embeddable ubiquitously into
the environment. All this means that printed electronics will largely create
new markets. An example could be tape around pipelines to detect leaks and
impending leaks and signal that there is a problem. The need is certainly
there given ongoing discovery of leaks in chemical facilities and even the
Trans Alaska Pipeline. Printed electronics will commonly take the form of
tape, "wallpaper", posters, patches and packaging rather than electronic
equipment. Electronically savvy companies making patches, tape or packaging
such as 3M and Toppan Printing will be more comfortable with this world than
the big computer and telecommunications systems and service businesses or
even the silicon chip makers.
In the early stages of this industry, technologists have reported that life,
performance and cost are variously delaying progress. However, lack of
imagination is also holding things up. The most important challenges vary
between the different types of component being developed and some are
summarised below. They include Thin Film Transistor Circuits (TFTCs)
combined with antennas to form RFID labels and the various forms of thin
film photovoltaics, being launched in 2007/8.
Main impediments to marketing of certain types of printed electronic
component in 2007.
Nonetheless, as most printed electronic technologies eventually approach
maturity, it looks as if the shortage of technically savvy, imaginative
product design and marketing will make many of them sell well below their
market potential. There is a desperate shortage of companies like T-ink
which has applied today's printed technology to invent interactive
tablecloths for Hallmark Inc, interactive table mats for McDonald's, pillow
radios for Toys 'R' Us, interactive board games, self-heating apparel,
weight reduction and space saving in cars and secret equipment used by
military forces. Most participants do not think further than marginal
improvements to existing electronic products such as the displays on mobile
Learn more at the annual IDTechEx Printed Electronics conferences in the
USA, Europe and Japan. www.IDTechEx.com/pe.