The nascent field of printed, flexible and organic electronics is finally going commercial in a big way. That was the chief takeaway from last month’s IDTechEx Show USA 2018. Before an audience of 3,500+ attendees from 42 countries, the two-day conference and tradeshow at the Santa Clara (CA) Convention Ctr. keyed in on a handful of commercial developments.
Chief among them were Royole Corp. and FlexPai, the first foldable FlexPai smartphone/tablet (going on sale this month), and JOLED debuting the world’s first printed OLED display. The FlexPai (above) features a 7.8-in. high-resolution display on a 7.6-mm-thin device with a multi-axis hinge to fold it in half. The second-generation “Cicada Wing” display is 20% of the thickness of a traditional smartphone’s LCD display and 10% of the weight. Royole says it uses about 100 nano-scale film materials, and 6 million flexible integrated circuits in the device overall.
Some Converting Curmudgeon
- IDTechEx Research estimates this year’s overall printed, flexible and organic electronics market is worth $31.6 billion. Displays make up the lion’s share at $26 billion, followed by sensors at $3.6 billion, conductive inks at $1.9 billion, OLED lighting at a $50 million, and logic/batteries/OPV at a mere $21 million.
- Among sensor trends: Biosensor miniaturization allows point-of-care diagnostics and will become a $41.3 billion market by 2028; device improvements and real-time monitoring are growing sales in healthcare and autonomous driving; and new flexible, stretchable sensors will generate $4.1 billion in revenue in 2028.
- Wearables, particular smart watches and fitness trackers, are booming, reaching $12 billion in sales this year. The overall wearables field is just short of $40 billion now and includes AR & VR devices, skin patches and e-textiles.
- About 16.4 billion RFID tags will be deployed in 2018, with about 55% being RAIN (UHF) devices, and another 30% as HF (near-field communication) tags. In terms of applications, the breakdown is 8 billion RFIDs for apparel, 2.2 billion as contactless cards, and 500 million for animals (all of which are LF devices).
- The global display-area production output is currently at 205 million sq meters with 3.67% being AMOLED products. This percentage is expected to grow to 8.5% AMOLEDs by 2024, when the total display output will reach 260 million sq meters.
- On the fringe of tomorrow’s technology, the 3D printing of medical devices and actual living tissues is forecast to exceed $8.1 billion by 2029.