Analysts forecast global growth of printed electronics technology, signaling a wave of new developments in the consumer packaging and converting markets.November 2009 by Matt Ream, Blue Spark Technologies
Electronic packaging, or e-packaging, is a term turning up more and more frequently in the package-printing and converting industries. Although still in its early days, e-packaging represents a trend that promises to deliver a host of innovations in the months and years ahead. So what's it all about, and how will the trend affect companies engaged in developing and deploying packaging and packaging systems?
Printed electronics and thin printed batteries
The foundation for e-packaging is printed electronics, which can be defined as the printing of electronic devices on common flexible media such as paper, plastic, or textiles using traditional printing processes. Devices now capable of being produced in this manner are transistors, RFID tags and antennas, sensors, electrochromic displays, and low-voltage, eco-friendly batteries.
The rapid growth of printed electronics is being led by developers and integrators around the globe joining forces to exploit the technology's unique capabilities and generate applications and products that create business value. At the heart of many of these applications are thin, flexible, low-voltage batteries, which function as primary battery cells, providing a power boost to activate the electronic device's functionality.
Among the advantages of low-cost, printed carbon-zinc batteries are their compact size and extremely thin form factors, which typically allow them to share a substrate with other printed electronic devices. The same properties contribute to their ease of integration into a variety of products economically and without the need for time- and labor-intensive assembly processes. In addition, the batteries contain no toxic substances and are environmentally friendly with safe disposal.
Implications for package printers
According to industry analysts, the global market for printed electronics and "green" printed batteries is broad and diverse, spanning consumer goods, financial, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, and logistics industries. Cambridge, UK-based IDTechEx estimates the market potential for printed electronics will exceed $35 billion worldwide by 2018, and that the electronic packaging market will reach $7.7 billion by 2020.
Leading players in the high-volume package-printing and converting industry will likely be among the first to tap into the value proposition of printed electronics, just as they were at the forefront of adopting automatic identification and data capture technology (AIDC). Especially in mass market consumer goods, AIDC technology has always proven valuable and has been deployed for brand protection and product authentication, closed-loop tracking of materials and finished goods inventories, and in concert with retail and distribution partners for supply chain efficiency and consumer market intelligence.