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Feb 5th, 2014
“By 2020, equipment & materials market for printed & flexible electronics is a potential US $1.65B business”,explains Dr Mounier, Yole Développement
Yole Développement announces its report, Market & Technology Trends in Materials & Equipment for Printed & Flexible Electronics. In this report, Yole Développement’s analysts identified technical hurdles for printed & flexible electronics (OLEDs lighting, OLEDs displays, PV, sensors) and analysed threats and opportunities for equipment and materials companies… “Equipment and materials market will soon start their ramp-up to large volumes with a growth starting in 2015”, announces Antoine Bonnabel, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole Développement.
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In its report, Yole Développement analyses, estimates and forecasts the equipment and material markets for printed and flexible electronics. Equipment and materials markets are still low, and will remain so over the next several years. Nevertheless the start of the industry ramp up is expected before 2020. This start is expected in 2018 for materials. It will be driven by the OLED industry that will represent a global market of almost $ 170M in 2020 (OLED only). The equipment market will start its ramp up sooner than materials, as device manufacturers will have to prepare for upcoming volumes. Yole Développement’s model for equipment forecasts is based on existing and future projects in printed and flexible electronics. Today it is unclear which deposition process will be used and companies often buy cluster tools with different deposition processes inside. In this scenario, ramp up is expected to start in 2015, thanks to conformable OLED displays, growing to over $1.3B in 2020 for the OLED industry alone.

In Yole Développement’s materials forecast, investigations have focused on typical materials and chemistries used for the manufacturing of: electrodes / active organic layers (emitting compounds, photoactive, materials) / charge transport materials / encapsulation systems.

Today, this industry is driven by big five companies, but many startups – from the sensing business - could enter this market
This past decade of investments and developments now begins to pay-off, and printed & flexible electronics is expected to ramp up in the next 10 years, creating the first volumes and stimulating the growth for equipment and materials in this field”, says Dr Eric Mounier, Senior Analyst, Yole Développement.

Even though most of the new companies - mostly start-ups or small companies such as ISORG, Canatu or KWJ Engineering - are expected to come from the sensing industry, the growth for equipment and materials will come from a few very large players involved in OLED manufacturing. Those players are easily identified. They are Samsung and LG for OLED displays and mainly Philips, General Electrics, LG and OSRAM for OLED Lighting.

OLEDs for displays and lighting are the only technologies expected to reach high volumes by 2020 with almost 3 million m² of processed surface (which represents 77% of the total printed electronics market in 2020). Strong efforts are being made by chemicals companies, such as Merck, DuPont, Dow, BASF and Sumitomo, in order to provide adequate inks and protective coatings that would allow solution printing of OLED devices.

Similarly, equipment manufacturers such as Coatema, Applied Materials or Kateeva aim at offering industry-adapted equipment for OLED manufacturing. Nevertheless it is still uncertain which manufacturing techniques will be preferred by industrials (inkjet, screen printing, spray coating, etc…) for material deposition.

Market growth and technical innovation will be more challenging in non-OLED related fields

On the other hand, growing sales and technological advances are much more complicated when aiming at applications such as photovoltaic and printed sensors.

Contrarily to OLED applications, flexible and printed solutions in photovoltaic are not being financially supported by significant investments of players such as LG or Samsung. Opportunities for new active materials or cost-efficient encapsulations supported by a broad number of research entities will come if new applications (e.g., building integrated PV) start generating sales.

The printed sensor field is extremely fragmented and is generally formed of niche markets. In this segment, each application requires specific materials and specific equipment dedicated to low volume production. An ink developed for a specific application cannot necessarily be used for another purpose. For example, a semiconductor material dedicated to absorb and react to Infra-Red (IR) light (and thus used for printed IR detectors) cannot be used for visible light sensing. Similarly a material dedicated to sense carbon monoxide (CO) will be unlikely to sense Nitride Oxide (NOx). For this reason, chemical companies will focus on high-end applications where volume could be low but added value will be high. Finding a provider for a specialized active material can then be a challenge for a small start-up with innovative concepts and a commercial limitation in this part of the printed electronics market.

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