“Automotive And Medical Will Adopt More Printed Electronics”

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The automotive industry is experiencing a revolution. But is this revolution limited to the evolution of powertrains? Salil Musale, MD, Naxona (Astarc Group), chats with EFY’s Mukul Yudhveer Singh and shares the upcoming opportunities in printed electronics!


Q: What does the recent acquisition of Belgium-based Quad Industries signify for Astarc and Naxnova?

A: Quad Industries specialises in printed electronics, and the focus on this segment will increase from leap to bound from here on. We acquired a majority stake in Quad Industries because we wanted to know the ‘whats, whys and hows’ of printed electronics at a rapid rate.

Q: What does the ‘whats, whys and hows’ encompass?

A: The know-hows encompass research and development, the engineering side, cost vs. operations vs. benefits, and much more. We want to test how quickly we can start making these in India, for India, and for the rest of the world.

The Astarc Group reported revenues of over $100 million last fiscal. It expects a pipeline of over $175 million this fiscal.

Q: Are there any specific industry segments you want to explore the possibilities of printed electronics?

A: We see immediate deployment of printed electronic solutions in medical electronics, wearables, consumer electronics, and automotive electronics. However, manufacturing these at scale in India remains a challenge and a question to be answered. Via the acquisition of Quad Industries, we want to fast-track the commercialisation of printed electronics in India.

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Q: But you have been an electronics major, so why Quad?

A: We have prowess in printed electronics, but automotive is the only use case we have explored. Quad Industries and Naxnova will now collaborate to work on printed electronics for other segments.

Q: Does automotive continue to remain a focus?

A: Automotive will always be a big focus for us as our DNA is automotive. That said, a Pandora’s box is full of opportunities around printed electronics waiting to be opened in India and other parts of the world. The increasing use of printed electronics in and outside vehicles’ cabins is a good example. This is true for all vehicle form factors, including two-wheelers.

Q: Please highlight some examples of printed electronics in the automotive domain.

A: On the interior side, there are human-machine interfaces, climate control panels, steering controls, mood lighting controls, and more. On the exterior side, there is a lot of printed lighting, defogging, etc. Though I would not like to talk much about this, we are also exploring thermal runaway control with the help of printed electronics.

Q: Is the Indian market mature enough to adopt these?

A: This is why we acquired Quad Industries! Many India-based electronic product OEMs are more than interested in these products. We will have to shorten our delivery timeline to match the order and inquiry rate we receive.

Q: What is driving this demand?

A: The fight for products equipped with new features is intensifying in India. Not just for cars and two-wheelers. The same applies to consumer electronics, wearables, and other electronic segments. The competition between OEMs and brands to offer extra features in mass segments is intensifying.

Q: Would bringing the capabilities of what is being manufactured at Quad in Belgium to India require investments?

A: Making in Europe only makes sense for a small volume, which will also be targeted towards local market consumption. However, manufacturing these in India would not require big investments from our side. The focus would be on technology transfer. There would be investments, but that would be for us to be the first of our kind in India. The solutions from our latest acquisition will make inroads into the country before the end of this calendar year.

Q: Are there any reasons why the brands will use printed electronics instead of touch buttons?

A: The three main reasons driving this change worldwide are lightweighting, miniaturisation, and added features. These will also drive the demand in India. For instance, electric vehicles must shed weight everywhere possible to help improve their ranges.

Q: Are there other segments besides the automotive sector that will want to adopt printed electronics?

A: There are huge opportunities in white goods, appliances, wearables, smartphones, laptops, medical electronics, and many more segments. We will get aggressive next year, especially on medical electronics and wearables. Printed electronics can revolutionise these two segments and the products sold under them.

Q: Medical and wearables! Why the two, and is there a connection between them?

A: Medical electronics and wearables will be far-advanced compared to what is available today. Most of these applications will be preventive. Printed electronics are becoming essential in the continuous monitoring of biomarkers. BP monitoring is just one side of wearables. There will be ones that one could wear near the heart or as a shoulder band. We are working with some wearable and medical electronics companies and are building these products.

Q: Who would be the target audience for companies building such products – end consumers or medical facilities?

A: Initially, their target audience will be medical facilities such as hospitals. Gradually, technological advancement will seep into wearables. The transfer time for this tech to be adopted into mass-market wearables from commercial-grade medical electronics will be faster. For the automotive segment, on the other hand, the focus will be on India as well as the other markets.

Q: Can you give an example?

A: Blood pressure (BP) monitoring and sleep pattern assessment were first limited to commercial medical machines and equipment. A few wearable electronics brands then adopted these. Today, almost every wearable device available in the market comes equipped with BP monitoring sensors and tech. The time it took to be adopted from one segment to another to mass in the above case was longer than it will take now.

Q: For these products, would your initial market be in India or outside of India?

A: Initially, our market for printed electronics for these segments would be outside India. Though we would concentrate on Europe and the United States during the next year, we are expected to start supplying these solutions to the India market starting the second half or end of 2025. The time duration of these seeping into mass segments from premium ones will be one of the shortest for any tech.

Q: What raw materials would you require to manufacture these?

A: Inks, polymers, coatings, and electronics are some of the major raw materials we would require for manufacturing. As we start manufacturing these in the country, we will also work to set up a supply chain here. Though we have identified a few suppliers, finding more to build a dependable supply chain will be a core focus area for us.


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Mukul Yudhveer Singh
Mukul Yudhveer Singh
Mukul Yudhveer Singh is an Editor at EFY. He’s an experienced business journalist who is both an enthusiast and a cynic of technology. Believes in data, as well as hunch-based journalism. He defines journalism as- reporting facts which help the audience take their own decisions, not ones that influence them!

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