For now, organic electronics are made on rigid substrates and mainly manufactured using vapor deposition techniques, which are costly, generally require high temperatures and generate significant product waste. Printed and flexible electronics has been a very hot topic in this past decade, holding the promise of a tremendous new market. While the printing of electronics is mainly a way to produce large electronic surfaces and reduce manufacturing costs, flexibility will provide higher robustness to the end products as well as new features, designs and shapes.
In our report, we explain how this market will be addressed by players that do not necessarily come from the semiconductor field. In this emerging part of the electronics industry, chemical companies and printing equipment companies are the players that will enable volume manufacturing and will leverage technical bottlenecks.
Indeed the main challenges today lay in:
The development of high performance materials which will reach or surpass that of inorganic solutions: their intrinsic efficiency, their ability to be printed at a sufficient resolution, to fully operate in combination with several other materials (not to mix one with another), and their lifetime.
The capability for chemicals companies to provide formulated molecules with new functionalities as well as very specialized active materials.
Equipment dedicated to printed electronics, that are able to handle specialized inks and to provide printing accuracy way beyond that of standard printing (in the 10s of μm range).
Technology enablers are therefore not those usually involved in electronics development. The solution printing & coating industry is very far from the standard electronics industry, in terms of equipment and materials and they have completely different industrial cultures.
EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS MARKET WILL SOON START THEIR RAMP-UP TO LARGE VOLUMES WITH A GROWTH STARTING IN 2015
In this report, we analyze, estimate and forecast 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. Our 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 our 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 our materials forecast, our 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 5 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.
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.EXCITING TECHNICAL CHALLENGES FOR THE CHEMICAL INDUSTRY
In this report, we explain how the growing demand for printed and/or flexible electronics will raise the production volumes for all materials. Chemical companies will enter a phase of process upscale, and optimization to guarantee a production at the same level of quality and maintain high margins while prices will progressively decrease. Overall costs of flexible and/or printed electronics have to be decreased in order to compete efficiently against inorganic solutions.
Value for the chemical industry will lay in the development of new molecules supported by computational chemistry but also in their formulations adapted to various printed technologies and end use.
The short commercialization times of most electronic products will be a challenge for the chemical industry that will need to adapt its development habits and follow the innovation pace required.
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.