FlexTech Workshop Reveals End User Needs for Flexible Electronics

FlexTech Workshop Reveals End User Needs for Flexible Electronics

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The University of Akron and the National Polymer Innovation Center (NPIC) hosted FlexTech’s Workshop on End User Requirements for Flexible, Printed Electronics. Co-sponsored by NorTech, northeast Ohio’s economic development agency, the event drew 65 representatives from OEMs and supply chain companies.

Dr. Jennifer Colegrove opened the workshop with a market analysis of curved displays, touchscreens, and ITO replacement alternatives. She stated that the curved and flexible display market is ready to blossom, capturing 16% market share by 2023 with an estimated value of $27B. The touch market has been explosive since 2006 and will reach $36B by 2020. As for non-ITO transparent conductors, revenue is building from $200M in 2013 to a forecasted $4B in 2020.

The first end user presentation was delivered by Dr. Frank Papay of the Cleveland Clinic. He noted that 75% of health care costs are spent on preventable diseases. Also, no more than 5% of prescription medicine is taken on time and/or according to a physician’s instruction. According to Dr. Papay, this creates “opportunity recognition” for new technologies, of which flexible electronics is seen as most promising. It can, for example, help monitor medicine usage and dosage if incorporated into blister packs and other means of dispensing medicine. Cheaper, better, faster is quickly becoming the mantra for health care delivery and non-invasive, non-intrusive means of monitoring patients is also an opportunity for flexible electronics.

American Greetings, whose brands include Hallmark, Blue Mountain and other greeting cards, explained the dynamics of the social interaction market. They stated that customers are willing to pay a higher price for a more interactive experience, opening the door to very lightweight, printable electronics with huge volumes required. Among their future needs are cards:

– With interactive pop-up with lights
– That respond to touch
– That light-up and sing; and
– That interact with iPhones, iPads, Internet enabled TV, tablets, and other smart devices

 

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Early adopters of new technology are often found in government and the military services. Eric Baumann, Flexible Electronics Sector Manager for NASA, addressed its requirements for electronics systems with reduced mass and volume, including power processing units, sensors/sensor systems, space suits, antennas and displays. One objective of NASA JPL is a printable spacecraft, which is a two dimensional “sheet” that contains all of the functional subsystems of a typical spacecraft – science measurement through data downlink.

Laura Rea, program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory, spoke to the topic of coupling human performance monitoring with autonomy. Her central point was that increasing technological demands require the human to be “on-the-loop” to ensure optimum performance of both operator and platform. Once again, a non-invasive, flexible, conformable smart patch is the key to monitoring the human system, providing real-time feedback on performance.

Other presentations focused on power supplies, lighting, and flexible displays. FlexTech’s workshop was preceded by tours of Valtronics, an electronics manufacturing company, and the NPIC.

Dr. Miko Cakmak, Director of NPIC, describes the functions of a roll-to-roll manufacturing tool.
Dr. Miko Cakmak, Director of NPIC, describes the functions of a roll-to-roll manufacturing tool.
Workshop visitors to the NPIC watch as conductive polymer materials are manufactured.
Workshop visitors to the NPIC watch as conductive polymer materials are manufactured.