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Volume 5, issue 4

Volume 5> Issue 4 
Conductive inks, inks, printing, flexible electronics, inking the future, substrates, silver, copper, CLIP

Inking the future

Conductive inks are the lifeblood of the plastic electronics industry. Their use enables products to be developed using traditional printing methods. But there are still problems that need to be rectified before they can take up their prime activity.

Conductive inks allow for flexible circuits to be produced on almost any substrate. But the state of conductive inks today means the industry needs work if they are to be widely adopted. At present, the best, also least cost effective, material used in inks is silver. However, efforts are on-going to produce lower cost inks, which can bring the dream of low-cost printed electronics to reality.

OLED, display, flexible, industry, plastic electronics, LG, Samsung, television, CES, 55-inch, OLED televisionBig screen ambitions

In January 2012, there was a rush of excitement surrounding the OLED industry. Once the preserve of the mobile phone market, suddenly the technology was being featured in large-size televisions. Twelve months later, the expectation is still there; the products however, are not.

Both LG and Samsung launched their 55-inch OLED televisions at the Consumer Electronics Show 2012, with both promising that they would be on the market by the end of the year. To date, only LG has launched its device, taking pre-orders in Korea. Media companies at the time of the launch predicted a battle between the two, which would revolutionise the television market. But with new companies showing interest in producing low-cost displays, the spectacle of such a battle is waning.

Flexible displays, bendable displays, OLED, e-paper

The promise of bendy phones coming soon is exciting, but the reality of flexible displays is a little different

Maybe without even realising it, many consumers are becoming very excited about plastic electronics. News reports that promise flexible displays for smartphones are the result of aggressive developments among OLED developers, most prominently Samsung, to remove glass and other rigid elements from displays. Certainly the merits of flexible electronics are appreciated by the industry as a whole, but developers in segments as varied as lighting to solar will also be aware of the substantial obstacles to their commercial use.

Plugged in: flexible displays looks at the current state of flexible displays which are already in use, and how much further these could develop. +Plastic Electronics also clarifies the likely progress of flexible OLED technology, and what this really means, as well as examining just which priducts would benefit from flexible displays.

Also in this issue...

Market watchThe wireCircuit 

The latest Market Watch examines the OLED lighting industry, as it continues to seek a commercial breakthrough.

While the display market is driving forward OLED technology, lighting has a number of challenges to overcome before it can be a serious contender in its field. There are also a number of different, and still emerging technologies that OLED lighting has to compete with. While in displays, the LED and LCD divisions have reached a plateau, the lighting market has only recently seen the emergence of the LED bulb. With governments around the world banning the sale of incandescent lighting, a new bright and long-lasting technology is needed. LED is ready to take this position, while OLED lighting is still in the lab.

Add to this the high cost of OLED lighting, and the continuing work to improve lifetimes and efficiency, and it is easy to see why the technology is still struggling to break through.

Yole Développment believes that the market needs to find a spark, and combine a number of different niche markets, to achieve the economies of scale that will decrease costs. This should, according to the company, be triggered in 2014, with the use of larger substrates and better process control. However, until this happens, the market will continue to grow slowly, before seeing significant expansion by 2020.

In the news this issue, current developments in flexible lightweight e-paper displays could lend themselves to the large signage market, as an alternative to the e-reader, which is losing market share to tablets. This is a fact shown by the recent announcement that E Ink, one of the biggest companies to supply the technology, posted its third quarterly loss in November 2012, of $8 million (€6.2 million). There are a number of benefits that e-paper can offer over traditional advertising sources. The most widely used form of advertising is still the paper poster. Yet while these use no power and are easy to see, their overall cost - including production, shipping and installation - is very high.

With full colour thinfilm electroluminescent (TFEL) displays in demand, Beneq's announcement that it has purchased Planar System's TFEL business puts them in a position to capitalise. Immediate uses for an extremely robust, crisp, totally transparent display technology include head up displays (HUD) in cars and aircraft. In working with Planar over the past several years Beneq has been able to develop atomic layer deposition (ALD) production technology and machines for the display industry.

Also in the news, functional wearable electronics are starting to come to market, and are also beginning to interest the fashion industry and The UK's Centre for Process
Innovation (CPI)
in the northeast of England is expanding its printed electronics facilities and services with a new pilot line, to support development of technologies including flexible display backplanes and large-area sensor arrays.

For the second year the Advanced Engineering UK group of events incorporated the UK Plastic Electronics Show into its programme and exhibition space.

Run by UK Tech Events, The exhibition unites a number of complementary areas related to the region's high-value manufacturing agenda.
While the technology was something of a new concept to visitors from other areas of the show - such as the composites and aero engineering segments - it provided good exposure on which more meaningful engagement could be built between plastic electronics and other industries.

For 2012 the event illustrated the progress that plastic electronics had made as part of this high-value manufacturing agenda for the UK. For the group of events as a whole, attendance was up from over 6,700 in 2011 to more than 9,000. Exhibitor numbers were also up from 401 in 2011 to 551.

For the UK Plastic Electronics Show in particular, the bigger exhibition space and dedicated speaker forum was busier. Companies from aerospace, automotive and defence visited to speak with the plastic electronics value chain about integration opportunities and application ideas. Discussions had moved on from trying to grasp the plastic electronics concept, as in 2011, to more specific discussions about plastic electronics being put to use.


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