Printed Electronics 2014 Expands Reach

The 2014 Printed Electronics Conference (Santa Clara, CA, November 18-20) organized by IDTechEx offered up meeting sessions on an expanded variety of seemingly unrelated topics. These topics included in addition to Printed Electronics: Energy Harvesting and Storage, Internet of Things Applications, Wearable Technology, 3D Printing, Supercapacitors, as well as Graphene and 2D Materials.

However, as the event organizers have noted in their market research work, there is increasing synergy between these diverse emerging technology areas. The attraction of this meeting covering these diverse technologies was reflected in the substantially increased attendance at the event; more than 2,500 attendees pre-registered, up from prior years. My impression, compared to attending in prior years is that the audience is more diverse in its interests, hailing from more diverse global regions, and more thoroughly engaged in what they perceive as important opportunities in growing markets.

The conference includes pre-conference and post-conference Masterclasses, tutorials really, on a range of topics. Also included during the pre-conference and post-conference days are local company plant tours. Silicon Valley is home to many interesting start-ups as well as branch operations of multinational technology firms, so the meeting location provides for easy access and a good opportunity to visit some interesting firms. During the lunch break tour session, I was able to visit with company personnel and tour Kateeva, a widely watched start-up developing manufacturing tools for OLED display manufacturing. My lunch with Kateeva president, Conor Madigan, and plant tour with CEO Alain Harrus were very informative. Kateeva impressed me with its openness and hospitality in hosting 40 or so conference attendees for lunch and a tour. I will report further on Kateeva for Display Daily after I attend Conor Madigan’s presentation later today on the firm’s Inkjet Technology for Mass Production of Flexible Displays.

Concerning the range and diversity of subject matter covered by Printed Electronics 2014, it has been clear to me and is clear to other attendees that printed electronics, 3D printing, certain materials including new transparent conducting films, as well as topics such as energy harvesting, the internet of things, and supercapacitors, are all coming together as developers strive to deliver wearable electronic products, thinner lighter mobile devices, and seek to provide networked interconnections for consumers’ belongings and devices. Thus, no one finds the juxtaposition of the topical coverage of the event to be out of place. Rather, attendees seem to be excited by the possibilities but struggle to wrap their heads around the real business opportunities.

In its market related presentations, IDTechEx makes the point that many current applications and actual markets are quite small and diverse niches. At the same time, substantial growth is forecast overall though in perhaps less definitive areas. The consensus is, it’s big, but exactly where it’s big is not yet clear. Some markets for printed electronics – to give an example, glucose monitoring strips – are already large. These glucose monitoring strips are currently a market worth $6 billion, according to IDTechEx. However, many of the emerging markets which the firm follows are only in the $1-20 million range and their trajectory is unclear.

As Printed Electronics 2014 illustrates, there are lots of technologies and product applications emerging currently but how, where and how much these technologies will be applied in products and lead to lucrative markets, requires some study. This is why we attend meetings like this one in Santa Clara. – Phil Wright