Plastic electronics set to transform a number of markets

According to a new report by Smithers Apex, plastic electronics (PE) is poised to enter and change a number of large markets in coming years.

Timing will vary by application; for example, OLED (organic LED) displays are already transforming smart phone markets, while other industries, such as medicine and security, will see the benefits of plastic electronics in the years to come.

Unmet Needs in Plastic Electronics: Market and Technology Forecasts to 2018 contains exclusive data segmented by end use and material for the next five years. Based on expert research and analysis, this report reveals the current state of the plastic electronics market plus developments expected to occur in the near future.

The early ascent of the plastic electronics industry and the possibilities it brought created a great deal of hype in the middle of the past decade. However in some cases, technologies believed to be effective in realising certain concepts were not up to the task. Basically, the toolkit was not yet in place and to a degree, excitement turned to disillusionment.

This picture has definitely improved since then. OLED displays are now the standard-bearer for plastic electronics, and the imminent commercialisation of products beyond OLEDs suggests that the required toolkit is far more complete than it has been in recent years. According to the report, this current momentum will need to be maintained and probably accelerated if the PE industry is going to grow from $8.5 billion in 2012 to more than $65 billion in 2018.

This future is by no means secure. Most PE implementations involve lower cost materials and, in many cases, high-volume printing processes. The supply chain is very complex, growing and not yet stabilised. Already, more than 1,000 companies are working in plastic electronics. Many forecasts for the performance of this market over the course of the decade hinge on the successful development and deployment of a range of critical processes and materials, a number of which are not fully developed at this time.

According to Unmet Needs in Plastic Electronics: Market and Technology Forecasts to 2018, two of the largest PE applications, displays and solar cells, will ultimately require new transparent electronic materials to realise their full potential. The main transparent conductor is indium tin oxide (ITO). In 2012, the ITO market was worth $7 billion worldwide. Functional inks are another critical component and are currently the focus of developmental efforts. The market for conductive inks will grow rapidly, spread over a number of applications.

In terms of end-use sectors, display technology remains the most promising near-term market opportunity for printed and organic electronics. OLED displays are already the standard bearer for plastic electronics, generating substantial revenue for manufacturers like Samsung and LG in smartphones. OLED displays, in particular televisions, will be the greatest driver in growth of the plastic electronics industry. In the near term, OLED TV sales will remain modest but grow rapidly in a few years. OLED displays in general, and the portion of that market devoted to touchscreens, will remain one of the more highly profitable segments of the plastic electronics industry.

Unmet Needs in Plastic Electronics: Market and Technology Forecasts to 2018 is available to purchase online and receive immediately for £3950.

To find out more about the report and how your company can benefit from a global usage license, please contact: Brian Santos (US) T: +1 207 781 9618 or Stephen Hill (UK) T: +44 (0)1372 802025.