Printed electronics (PE), in all of its forms, has been making big strides in recent years, as interesting new applications emerge and materials and equipment suppliers continue to make advancements. At Printed Electronics USA 2012, which was held Dec. 5-6 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, more than 1,500 attendees received insights into the latest opportunities that PE is offering.

The two-day (PE USA 2012) conference featured speakers from a wide range of perspectives, from major consumer companies such as Walt Disney Corporation and Proctor & Gamble, international industrial leaders such as GE and DuPont, the military and leading PE manufacturers, detailing what is new in the technology. Areas such as organic light emitting diodes (OLED), displays, sensors, smart cards, organic photovoltaics (OPV), packaging and others were discussed by leading experts in the respective fields. Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx, the conference’s organizer, opened the conference with his keynote talk on “Printed Electronics 2012-2022: The Reality, Opportunity and Winners So Far.”

“Printed electronics is an umbrella term encompassing a group of technologies that are each at different stages maturity,” Das said. “There are three different strategies. The first is to replace whole existing devices. The second strategy is improving something, and the third is creating a new product and replace nothing.

“We are seeing a lot of companies repositioning themselves to do something simpler, and can improve products by being more cost effective while producing better performance,” Das added. “The Kindle eReader is an example of creating a new product. It allowed Amazon to revolutionize its business model. “

Das noted that there are three billion dollar PE success stories so far: eReaders, although there is a need for developing color bi-stable display; conductive inks, which is a $2.5 billion market; and OLED displays. He added that hot technology sectors include metal oxides for OLED TFT backplanes, graphene, printed silicon, flexible barriers, transparent conductive films and stretchable electronics.

University of Tokyo Prof. Takao Someya was next, with his talk on “Emerging Applications of Printed Skin-like Sensors and Organic Photovoltaics,” a look at ultraflexible and stretchable thin film transistor integrated circuits and OPV for emerging fields such as bio/medical.

Someya said that the research being conducted by the University of Tokyo has come up with ultraflexible OPV offering 4.2% efficiency and a bending radius of 35 microns.

“Stretchable eSkins are printed using carbon nanotubes and ionic fluids and are ideal for biomedical and healthcare applications,” Someya said. “We started with rigid substrates 12 years ago and have advanced through plastic and rubber. We are now working on gels and are moving step by step toward a living thing.”

Dr. Slade Culp, staff scientist with the United Technologies Research Center, analyzed the possibilities for PE in buildings and aerospace possibilities in his keynote talk on “Opportunities for Printed Electronics in Integrated Buildings and Aerospace Systems.”

“A multitude of printed electronics applications exist in integrated building and aerospace systems. Printed electronics for integrated buildings can be used in displays, controls, sensors ad functional packaging,” Dr. Culp said. “Cost is a major driver. A 10- to 20-year lifetime is needed, as well as easy integration and aesthetics, as it should be completely invisible. On elevators, you can have access controls and lighting displays and sensors for diagnostics. For aerospace, there can be embedded sensors, interior lighting and displays and heaters. The desired traits are low weight, survivability and wireless.”

Dr. Ivan Poupyrev, senior research scientist with Walt Disney Corporation, then discussed new technologies in his discussion on “The World that Feels and Responds: Toward The Next Generation of Physical Computing.”

“There is a full generation of consumers who expect everything to be functional,” Dr. Poupyrev said. “The world of tomorrow with feel, respond and compute.” He said the first challenge for PE companies is to create sensing technology and materials that makes the real world responsive and interactive at a minimal cost.

Dr. Chagaan Baatar, program officer at Office of Naval Research (ONR), will follow with “Graphene: Scaled Up and Down,” a look at the use of graphene for PE.

“Nanoelectronics is our focus,” Dr. Bataar noted. “There are new emerging directions in graphene electronics, including transparent elements for flat panel displays and solar cells as well as flexible grapheme electronics.”

IDTechEx then hosted an End User Forum, featuring Proctor & Gamble’s Jonathan Joyce, MeadWestvaco’s Michael Lando, Diasego’s Steven Williams and Boeing’s Jeff Duce. Following that, Williams, pack and dispense innovation manager at Diageo, whose talk was on “Harnessing E-Technologies to Step Change How Consumers Interact with Premium Drinks Brands.” >

Diageo owns major brands such as Guinness, Smirnoff’s, Bailey’s, Captain Morgan’s, Johnny Walker and Tanqueray, and Williams said that the company’s goal is to harness eTechnologies to create ways consumers can interact with our brands.

“In bars, there could be interactive digital menus or smart glasses that inform and entertain, while in packaging, there could be links to mobile devices, displays on the packaging and point-of-sale displays,” Williams added. Dr. Robert J. Visser, senior director, Advanced Technology Group at Applied Materials, finished the keynote session with his discussion on “Printing for Solar Cells.”

Of Toys and More

After lunch, PE USA 2012 featured four concurrent sessions, ranging in topics from Consumer Goods, Toys, Wireless Power; OLED Lighting; Photovoltaics USA; and Touch Screen and ITO Replacement.

Among the talks of note were T-Ink’s Andy Ferber and Terry Kaiserman, who talked about T-Ink’s growth from toys to automotive arts and so much more in their presentation on “T-Ink’s Evolution in Printed Electronic Commercialization from Toys to Aerospace.”

Ferber, T-Ink’s chairman, talked about TouchPac,the new joint venture between T-Ink and Printechnologics.

“We are an enabling technology, and with Printechnologics, formed TouchPac, a new company which features TouchCode, which will be the new standard of connectivity,” Ferber said. “It is very difficult to counterfeit, and is ideal for loyalty programs, brand awareness, online shopping and more.”

Kaiserman,T-Ink’s chief technology officer, discussed T-Ink Smart Surface 3D In-Mold Overhead Console, which is being utilized in the Ford Fusion.

“It took about four years to get to this, and now we are ramped up for high-speed production,” Kaiserman said. “We print it on the B-side, and it takes 14 layers. We print it flat, and then it is formed, trimmed and molded. Ford wanted to make it thinner, lighter and less expensive. Ultimately, our dream is to coat everything and make it into a sensor.”

LeRoy Johnson, senior director, emerging technologies for Leggett & Platt, analyzed “Wireless Power and the Infrastructure for Point of Purchase Applications.”

Among its product portfolio, Leggett & Platt produces shelving and end caps for retailers, and Johnson said the company is developing wireless shelves.

“If shelves have wireless power, than printed electronics is a technology that comes to mind,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of customers lined up with specific dates for launching their promotions.”

Warren Kronberger, R&D director for The Marketing Store, discussed “The Promotional Marketing Landscape & Printed Electronics.”

“The excitement of printed electronics is its ability to influence purchasing and branding,” Kronberger noted.

Day Two Insights

On Dec. 6, Printed Electronics USA 2012 broke into fiveconcurrent tracks. Track 1 covered Sensor Technology, Barrier Film – New Progress and Logic and Memory. Track 2 focused on Quantum Materials, Energy Storage – Gold Rush, Actuators/Sound, Paper Electronics, Flexible and Stretchable Electronics and Energy Harvesting. Track 3 covered Displays, Future of Transparent Conductors, and Printed Conductors.

Track 4 was the Manufacturing Track, including topics such as 3D Printing and Printed Electronics Manufacturing. Track 5 focused on Graphene LIVE!, as well as Carbon Nanotubes, Functional Inks and Manufacturing and Composites.

Among the talks were a trio of papers on Quantum Materials. Peratech Ltd. CTO David Lussey discussed “Quantum Tunnelling Composite (QTC) Materials in Printable Electronics.” Dr. Seth Coe-Sullivan, co-founder and CTO of QD Vision, will focused on “High Efficiency, High Temperature Quantum Dot Materials.” Steve Reinhard, vice president – business development at Nanoco Technologies, offered his insights on “Heavy Metal Free Quantum Dots for Displays, Lighting and Solar Applications.”

“QTC is an isotropic non-linear electrical composite with a resistance range covering over 16 orders of magnitude,” Lussey said. “This is important for touchscreens. QTC switches on sensors are rugged, reliable and intrinsically safe, and can be made as solids, coatings and most recently inks, which has opened new opportunities for us. It is making its mark in touch screens. Roll to roll is the ultimate goal and QTC enables that.”

“We have solved a few key problems, such as QD efficiency droop.,” Coe-Sullivan said. “QD Vison’s approach is to place our material on one edge of the screen, which offers the best of both worlds.” Reinhard said that Nonoco is the global leader in cadmium-free quantum dots (CFQD), and added that the company iscurrently scaling up production.

Dr. Joseph Stetter, president and CTO for KWJ Engineering, analyzed “Integration of Gas Sensors and Printed Electronics for Next Generation Situational Awareness,” a look at KWJ’s Screen Printed Electrochemical Sensor (SPEC).

“Some day, cell phones will not only sense what is happening to you, but also tell you what environment you are in,” Dr. Stetter said.“The chemical senor market is poised for major growth. Printed sensors can be disruptive, and printed gas sensors are already in place. Screen printing significantly reduces size and cost.”

Dr. Gordon Smith, GSI Technologies’ CTO, discussed “Manufacturing Printed Electronic Devices,” including the EMD Millipore Scepter, the first portable hand-held flow cytometer, for which GSI Technologies manufacturers the tip.

“Flow cytometry is a method of cell counting routinely performed in laboratories in the field of life science, chemical, veterinarian research and the food and beverage industry,” Smith said. “The EMD Millipore Scepter has a one-time use tip for pipette samples based on the Coulter Principle, which allows cells through to be counted by an electrical field. Copper polyimide was the previous choice, and there was an interest in taking cost out, as cost did not scale up along with volume. They also wanted improved performance. Printed electronics offered lower cost but more importantly, reduced functional limitations.”

Dr. Gael Depres, exploratory and partnership manager, Arjowiggins Creative Papers, discussed his company’s PowerCoat substrates during his talk on “What Can We Print On A Paper Designed For Printing Electronics?” “PowerCoat can be printed via inkjet, gravure and screen,” Dr. Depres said. “For example, RFID is being manufactured by inkjet.

PowerCoat provides the ideal substrate for even the most demanding printed electronics applications. It offers high smoothness and good thermal resistance.”

Dr. Rahul Gupta, senior director business development for Cambrios Technologies, discussed “Cambrios ClearOhm: Solution Coated and Printed Transparent Conductor for Printed Electronics.” “New touch screens require low resistance and high conductivity along with low cost,” Dr. Gupta said. “They typically use indium tin oxide (ITO), but it is expensive. ITO has to be manufactured using vacuum deposition, which has limited throughput. ITO is also brittle, and is not ideal for flexible substrates. ITO also requires high temperature to get conductivity, which is not ideal for low-cost plastic substrates.

“ClearOhm material is made of single crystal silver nanowires, and can be used as an effective transparent electrode for OLEDs,” Dr. Gupta added. “It is already in use in commercial touch screens. While it is currently produced using slot die coating, our focus in 2013 is gravure.”

Si-Cal Inc. is a leading printer, of electrical components and Richard Morris, business development at Si-Cal, will offer his insights in “Roll to Roll Printed Electronics Manufacturing Gathers Steam.”

“Things have started to pick up,”  Morris said. “We have to go to roll-to-roll to get the costs out.”

PE USA 2012 then closed the conference with a trio of keynote speakers, among which was Prof. Margit Harting, Dept. of Physics at University of Cape Town and PST Sensors, who analyzed “Printed Silicon in Electronics,” Harding noted that thermristors are 25% of the sensor market, and added that printed thermristors are manufactured using silicon nanoparticle inks.

Dr. Peter Harrop, IDTechEx’s chairman, closed PE USA 2012 with his talk, “Beyond the Conventional: Printed Electronics Case Studies in Vehicles, Energy Storage and Energy Harvesting.”

Exhibitors’ Thoughts

Exhibitors at PE USA 2012 said that they saw positive signs for the industry during PE USA 2012.

“I feel like there’s been a shift in attendance from the curious to people moving forward into applications,” said Jennifer Ernst, vice president, North America for Thin Film Electronics ASA (Thinfilm). “I think printed electronics has nearly reached the inflection point.”

“This is the first time we exhibited at PE USA, and traffic has been really busy,” said Jaye Tyler, president and CEO of Si-Cal, Inc., a heat transfer label and printed electronics specialist. ”What I find refreshing is that the show is definitely bigger. Our actual customers are here, as well as people in different ends of the market.”

“I thought the show was good,” said Jack Kraemer, president of GSI Technologies. It was our first time exhibiting, and the conference gave us a lot of opportunities to communicate with potential customers and suppliers. Every year seems to be moving forward.”

“It is good to see the show growing, and there are new faces in the crowd,” said Darren Bianchi, partner at NANOGAP-USA. “There are new, interesting areas that are closer to commercialization. It was encouraging to see the general acceptance by the marketplace of silver nanofibers as a replacement for ITO in transparent conductive films, as evidenced in the Windows 8 touch screen example.”

“The show has been very good,” said Beth Vasy, operations manager at Liquid X Printed Metals. “We are very impressed with the turnout and have received a lot of interest. We’ve seen a lot of market opportunities, both for silver and gold metallic.”

Equipment manufacturers said that they had the opportunity to show attendees the process of manufacturing printed electronics. Stan Farnsworth, vice president of marketing, for NovaCentrix, said NovaCentrix took a new approach that worked well at PE USA 2012.

“We worked with IDTechEx to reflect the readiness of printed electronics, through Manufacturing Street and the demonstrators,” Farnsworth said. “We got fantastic feedback on it, and it is helping us to strengthen supply chain relationships as well. “The end-users we spoke with responded well, and this gives them confidence going forward that many of the challenges have been worked out and the industry is now addressing system-scale optimization,” Mr. Farnsworth added. “We have shown that printed electronics is closer to volume use than people realized.”

“The demonstration of showing the simplicity of silk screening a conductive ink with NewLong’s (TEXMAC) DP320 series printer and sintering a functional ink in seconds drew a continuous flow of interested show attendees to our booth,” said Louis Panico, CEO of Xenon Corporation. “Also drawing much attention was Xenon’s Printed Electronic Testing Network program, a global testing network where companies and research institutions can go and test printed electronic applications.”

Dr. Remy Noguera, CEO of Ceradrop, said that it was a very good exhibition for Ceradrop. “It was our first time in the U.S., and we even sold the machine that we brought here,” Dr. Noguera said. “We organized a demo line with Adphos, Sun Chemical and ArjoWiggins, and we did a lot of printing and testing conductivity to show potential customers the capabilities of inkjet printing and the ability to integrate curing systems inline.” Das said he was “very pleased” with the conference.

“The number of exhibitors grew 11% this year, and attendance is up as well, as we are well over 1,500 attendees,” Das said. “I’m pleased because it seems like there are more commercial applications being discussed here.”
By David Savastano, Editor | December 12, 2012
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