Flexible, Printed and Organic Electronics: The Bus India Should Not Miss!

By Sudeshna Das is director at ComConnect Consulting

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Defence applications

Flexible electronic devices printed onto uniforms, including electronic readers, displays featuring high-quality photographs, maps and other information, and communications devices, can drastically reduce the loads soldiers carry.

Flexible sensors can be placed on aircraft and vehicles to perform multiple functions, too.

Printed photovoltaic devices on tents, buildings and vehicles could generate local power, reducing the logistical demand for fuel.

Stretchable electronics

Electronic devices that can be stretched as well as bent without losing functionality have many potential applications. The company Mc10 is reportedly commercialising stretchable skin developed at University of Illinois, Chicago. It contains sensors to monitor body functions and provide early warning of heart and brain problems before these occur, enabling real-time intervention by a doctor.

In the automotive sector, rigid electronic components can be fabricated by stretching these to form during plastic-moulding, yielding lighter, smaller and lower-cost parts, such as overhead lighting systems.

Flexible batteries

Highly-flexible batteries would enable the design of a broad range of products free from the constraints of rigidity and weight that characterise conventional batteries. Flexible batteries could power wearable electronics, including wristbands and clothing. These could enable the design of slimmer electronic products, and provide a power source for digital smart labels, such as freshness detectors on food packaging.

Growth drivers

Flexible electronic devices are easy to assemble, since these are lightweight and portable. This has resulted in the growing adoption of flexible electronic devices in areas such as solar power harnessing, healthcare and consumer electronics application, which are the key growth drivers.

There is significant demand across the globe for flexible and lighter products. Flexible electronic products that are in high demand include flexible displays, flexible photovoltaics, flexible batteries, flexible sensors, flexible memories and flexible RFID devices.

The main objective of manufacturers is to achieve large volumes and high-quality production processes that ensure a stable and efficient end product.

A major demand driver of flexible electronics is the consumer electronics sector. This predominantly includes OLED-based display devices. Flexible OLED lighting solutions are expected to be increasingly adopted for automotive applications. These are easy to integrate, provide improved luminosity and offer optimisation in saving space and cost.

Growing interest in flexible OLED lighting from major automobile manufacturers is also expected to boost this high rate of adoption.

Flexible batteries are also expected to be rapidly adopted for consumer, healthcare and industrial applications. Improvements such as rechargeability will aid longer operational times in various applications.

Consumer electronics is set to retain this domination with the inclusion of other innovative products.

Other areas that will see a growth in the adoption of printable electronics are printed batteries, healthcare and transport.

Flexible electronics has made possible a whole range of products that were hard to fathom with traditional electronics. For example, printed solar panels, printed memories, flexible and printed displays and disposable printed batteries are some of the products being realised using flexible and printable electronics.

Further, the light weight and form factor of the products have allowed flexible electronics to penetrate into other innovative applications like smart textiles.

Flexible displays account for a major share of the flexible electronics market for consumer electronics. Flexible displays are prominently being adopted for smartphones, smart wearables and smart television applications. Leading smartphone brands such as Apple and Samsung are playing a vital role in the growth of the flexible electronics market for flexible displays.

Continuous innovation and development of advanced organic electronic technologies is a key factor that is likely to augment the growth of the global organic electronics market in the near future. Factors such as rising disposable incomes of the population and increased spending on innovative technologies are fuelling the demand for organic electronics across the globe.

In addition to this, new applications of organic materials in electronics is likely to intensify the size of global organic electronics market in the future. Additionally, implementation of organic materials in display technologies such as smartphones, tablets, televisions and laptops are predicated to enhance the growth of global organic electronics market in upcoming years.

In terms of geographic regions, Asia-Pacific (APAC) dominated the flexible electronics market, accounting for the largest market share in 2017, according to a Market and Market report. The region is likely to be the fastest-growing market for flexible electronics during the forecast period. APAC is the hub for manufacturers and customers of flexible OLED panels, with Samsung and LG being the leading companies that deploy flexible displays in smartphones and televisions.

In APAC region, flexible sensors are increasingly being used for healthcare applications. The region has witnessed an increase in the installation of thin-film photovoltaics in recent years. Their deployment is expected to increase steadily in China. With Japan and India being prominent countries in the adoption of thin-film photovoltaics, other countries in the region are also shifting towards renewable energy resources.

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