Printed Electronics Executives Discuss Predictions for Massive Development in 2010


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Printed Electronics Executives Discuss Predictions for Massive Development in 2010

Over 200 of the leading companies in the emerging Printed Electronics (PE) industry will gather at the Printed Electronics Summit taking place May 10-11 in San Diego, California. PE Futures, the event organizer, gained the inside track on the latest developments for the printed electronics industry in 2010 when Tim Lovatt interviewed some of the conference’s presenters. These experts represent a cross section of some of the most promising verticals for the Printed Electronics market in 2010:

  • J. Devin McKenzie (DM), CTO at Add-Vision, discussing OLED technology
  • Andreas Meyer (AM), director at Ravensburger, examining PE as an end-user
  • Martin Jackson (MJ), VP at Plastic Logic, displaying the latest in e-readers
  • Andreas Rueckemann (AR), CEO at Heliatek, predicting the rise of OPV

Printed Electronics Futures: Thank you for joining us today for this discussion of Printed Electronics development in 2010. To start us off, it would be great to gain an understanding on how you and your company are positioning yourself for the next year and what goals you are setting yourself?

DM: Add-Vision is supporting its licensees as they scale up to pilot manufacturing and begin commercialization of printed flexible OLEDs.  AVI R&D groups are focused on increasing efficiency of the manufacturing process and refining performance of printed devices towards product specifications.

AM: Ravensburger has already started with the integration of electronic and electronic devices into board games, with success. So one aim would be to strengthen the main categories with additional electronic and technical opportunities, to enhance the fun and the challenge while playing as well as being updated with the convenience of playing games over all

MJ: Plastic Logic launched the QUETM proReader on January 7 at CES. QUE is designed specifically for business professionals who have a need to read and work with documents anytime, anywhere. It utilizes Plastic Logic’s shatterproof plastic display to design a thin, lightweight product with a unique form factor. Over the next 12 months, we aim to establish QUE as the product of choice for business reading.  Our initial focus is on the U.S. market. Once we establish ourselves in this market, we’ll rollout plans for other markets.  As a global company, we are of course very interested in the global market and want to achieve global sales as quickly as we can. We have make sure, however, that we have the ecosystem in place to expand properly — this includes content, distribution partners, connectivity and customer support — to meet Plastic Logic’s high standards and to delight our customers. We plan to take the time to make sure we get things right.

AR: Heliatek aims to transfer the world-record laboratory values, both of cells and modules, to the first production line, and scale-up OPV production. The first part of this installation will be taking place in 2010, with the aim to have products on the market by the end of 2011.

PE Futures: Where do you see the biggest market potential for Printed and Organic Electronics?

DM: Portable media products: cards, inserts, packaging and advertising for example. I also see possible markets for higher-end portable products that require high efficiency, and thin robust devices: smart phones, wireless, etc.

AM: In general, I think the focus will be in communication issues, including transport and logistics. In the toy industry, it would be the support of ideas, to maximize possibilities in an almost ancient tradition: board games. Printed electronics is one basic idea to shift traditional games into the future.

MJ: Plastic Logic’s factory in Dresden is the world’s first plastic electronics factory producing displays. Flexible plastic displays are forecast to go strongly over the next few years and this is where we see the immediate potential. In the longer term, other market segments, such as automotive, will be able to take advantage of the flexibility in their products.

AR: High-volume applications are next on the agenda, for which all USPs of the product are well used, such as industrial roof BIPV (off grid). It utilizes the low weight, affordable direct production cost, lower transportation and installation cost benefits of OPV, and a 10% efficiency (latest 2015) would be plenty. For parts of the market, homogeneously semi-transparent materials would also be relevant.

PE Futures: What are the most interesting breakthroughs of the past year?

DM: OLEDs exceeding the efficiency of conventional illumination in a new form factor.

AM: For us at Ravensburger, it’s the possibility of "real" start-up ideas after the crisis, and a big comeback of environmental items and issues.

MJ: From Plastic Logic’s point of view bringing the factory up to fully operational status has been an enormous amount of work. There is a huge difference between demonstrating plastic electronics in the laboratory and being able to manufacture at high volume. We have learnt a lot and this production experience is essential if plastic electronics is going to break through into the mass market.

AR: Technically, the highest OPV efficiency of cells on areas of or above 1 cm², the highest OPV module efficiency, progress on transparent OPV, the highest reported lifetime, and the combination of lifetime with the most efficient cells. There has also been significant progress in developing and specifying the required production equipment. From a financial point of view, our Series B financial round closed in November netting 27 Million USD, said by the market to be (one of) the most significant Cleantech round of 2009 for companies like us (pre-revenues and pre-production). We also gained another blue chip company (RWE) as further investor, which thus completes our value chain of shareholding, from molecule (BASF) to system (BOSCH) to energy supplier (RWE), supported by world class VCs (Wellington et al).

PE Futures: Who and what do you think will be making headlines in 2010?

DM: For OLED Lighting, headlines will feature the introduction of OLED in the eagerly anticipated Apple tablet, and also the developments in OLED at Samsung. 

MJ: There’s a new generation of connected mobile devices coming, including e-Readers, our QUE proReader, tablets and more.

AR: I think we’ll see some improvements in OPV cell/module performance, along with progress in production preparation.

PE Futures: What are the main challenges still remaining for the industry?

DM: Finding an application outside of OLED that truly needs a printed electronics solution that can’t be met with Si (IC or amorphous) cost effectively. Current efforts in TFT for displays and RF have failed to do this. In terms of batteries and voltage, printed electronics require high-voltage and/or don’t have great power efficiency. At the same time, the most interesting products are supposed to be thin, flexible and light. Printed batteries are not that good, that flexible, or in useful voltage/power ranges for many products. Printed electronics voltages need to drop and printed thin batteries need to get a lot better to match the application form factors.

AM: That’s a difficult question: If there is learning, straight out from the crisis – the industry itself and the governments – should start in an active, pro-active way with solutions (and products), which are sustainable, which eliminate the throw-away and fast buck mentality in a authentic, convincing and creative way.

MJ: Plastic/organic electronics face many challenges:

  • Understanding basic performance. There is still much to do to understand the basic performance of transistors, etc. and to be able to provide accurate models. With accurate models we will be able to design products with more certainty. A key difference between silicon and organic electronics is that in silicon there aren’t many materials or ways to design a transistor – with organic electronics there is an almost infinite variety of semiconductor materials.
  • Being able to analyze organic electronics. Metrology is key to being able to manufacture on a large scale and with its nanometer thick films but very large areas organic electronics poses significant challenges to the measurement equipment suppliers.
  • Standardization: One of the reasons that silicon prospered was that key aspects were standardized and the industry worked together (Sematech) to define a roadmap. The plastic/organic electronics industry is at an early stage and has yet to work out what and how to standardize.

AR: The biggest challenge for the industry today is the move from lab to fab for OPV.

PE Futures: Where do you see the printed and organic electronics industry in 5 years?

DM: Getting into biomedical, security products where it might have a unique use: disposability/ ultra low cost, large-area health-related sensor integration, etc.

AM: Hopefully, the first products will be successfully realized in mass production. Transport and logistics will always be safe, and thus will be fully supported by printed electronics. The communication industry will help to fit our e-life-style in a creative way, with even a noticeable relaxation for instance in contact with public authorities. I also think environmental factors will play more of a part. Printed and organic electronics are beginning to contribute substantially to environment and will have begun to noticeably reduce energy consumption.

MJ: I think that we will see displays well established in a range of products and the success in this space will enable plastic/organic electronics to target other applications. As our understanding improves and we make a broader range of devices then CMOS becomes possible and with CMOS comes the ability to integrate displays more tightly. A range of interesting new applications will have emerged which need either the flexibility, low cost of manufacture, large area operation or rapid customisation of organic electronics

AR: There is a great potential, matching roughly $300 billion in 2027, best described in the Strategic Research Agenda that we have just finalized and officially handed over to the European commission. It comprises five areas of organic and printed Electronics: Lighting, OPV, Displays, Electronics and Integrated Systems.

Printed Electronics Summit

May 10-11 San José, California

Join over 200 printed, organic and flexible electronics professionals at the industry’s most relevant, definitive conference, designed to be your roadmap to printed electronics scale-up cutting edge technologies and mass-market integration.

With experts like our four speakers above, high-level presentations from Cambridge Display Technology, E-ink, Harris & Harris, Adidas, Ravensburger, Crayola, SkyShades and many more, the conference offers valuable advice and actionable solutions to your everyday challenges. For a full speaker line-up and agenda, please visit www.pefutures.com

February 2, 2010