Printed electronics or electronic printing is the use of a number of technologies to print on the substrate with the help of electrical or optical inks. Electronic printing is done with passive or active components such as resistors or transistors. Printed electronics also utilizes different types of solution based materials such as organic or inorganic semiconductors, nanotubes or nanoparticles or metallic conductors to facilitate printing experience. With the help of these distinguished devices, printed electronicsare able to completely harness new properties which makes then more attractive for new developing applications.The combination of new class of materials and large area, patterning techniques and high volume deposition of applications of printable electronics are some of the important motivating factors for growth of printed electronics. It can be applied on photonic and electronic devices like screen printing with the help of user graphic and dielectric or conducting inks. In the last decade, there has been a significant increase in demand for flexible printed electronics in packaging industry and is expected to continue over the next six years, and this demand is expected to enhance the growth of printed electronics. Other important factors which support its growth are added cost advantage, greater flexibility, higher scalability, easily adoption in widely differing environment, reduced environmental impact, increased energy efficiency in consumption and comparative lesser material wastage over traditional printing methods. The printed electronics market has transitioned from the experimental phase to mass commercialization over last few years, and is expected to grow over the next six years.
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Printed electronics applications include displays, industrial, sensors, lighting and others. Various displays use electronic printing for electronic paper application, large feature displays and multi-layer pixel technique for printing. Electronic printing also find their usage in sensor manufacturing and are prominently used in designing of specific devices such as printed blast sensor, game/sport helmet sensor circuits. In industrial applications, printed electronics is extensively used in automobile manufacturing in printed aerials, smart textile, and pressure measuring devices, and self-rearing mirrors. Printable electronics is one the important component of OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode). OLEDs are produced currently using vacuum process on glass substrates. Its other application includes organic photovoltaic and electronic components such as printed RFIDs and batteries manufacturing.
Printed electronics technologies include inkjet printing, screen printing, flexographic printing, gravure printing and others. Inkjet printing is the technique that creates digital image with the help of propelling droplets of ink on the plastic, paper or some other type of substrates. They are the most common type of printers used worldwide and range from inexpensive models to professional machines. Screen printing is next most common technology and uses woven mesh and supports ink-blocking stencil to produce a desired image. Flexography or flexographic printing uses flexible relief plate for printing processes generally on the non-porous subtracts for types of food packaging. Gravure printing uses rotatory printing press which is used in commercial printing generally. The other types of technologies that can be deployed into electronic printing include digital printing and visual effects segment.
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On a regional basis, Asia Pacific is expected to be the major market; however, North America is expected to witness growth due to expected growth in the packaging industry. RoW and European markets are expected to grow at a consistent rate due to recent developments in applications of printed electronics.
The printed electronics industry is highly consolidated in nature. Many mergers and acquisitions have taken place in the past few years. The key players of the industry are DuPont (U.S.), E-Ink (Taiwan), PARC (U.S.), Solicore (U.S.), OE-A (Russia) T-Ink (US), Thin Film Electronics (Norway) and Vorbeck Material (U.S.).