Printed electronics materials swell to $2.6B by 2017

November 29, 2012 – The market for materials used in printed electronics manufacturing will nearly double over the next five years as new materials are brought forth that are printing process-compatible and are sufficiently low-cost to support low-cost volume production of printed electronic devices, according to a Lux Research report.

"Much of the promise of printed electronics lies in the potential to manufacture devices through low-cost, high-throughput manufacturing," said Jonathan Melnick, Lux Research analyst and lead author of the report, "Inking Money: The prospects for materials in printed electronics." To do that, though, will require creation and implementation of various materials that offer good enough performance and are compatible with printing processes — without becoming too costly themselves."

Examining a range of materials with a breadth of complexity, performance, and cost — focusing on conductive inks and pastes, new transparent conductive films, and semiconductor inks — Lux offers the following observations:

  • Silver thrives; alternatives struggle. The market for opaque conductive inks alone will grow to $2.4 billion in 2017, from $1.4 billion in 2012, with medical and RFID among the fastest-growing segments. However, silver paste will still dominate and other materials will only find traction in solar applications.
  • Rapid smartphone adoption offers a bonanza. Transparent conductive films (TCF) to replace indium tin oxide (ITO) widely used in touchscreens will grow to $705 million, of which $112 million will come from the inks. Most of that will be driven by smartphone touchscreens, with tablets a distant second — meaning there’s a wide range of potential growth scenarios.
  • Displays lead the way for printed semiconductors. Printed semiconductors will grow to $68 million in 2017, with solution-processed OLED emissive materials the lead application.

Rising silver cost will have less impact on emerging silver paste and ink alternatives prices. (Source: Lux Research)

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