Printed electronics products are now in full-scale production. E-paper displays and RFID antennas are being routinely printed and such products are expected to generate $5.6 and $12.6 billion in revenues respectively by 2015. E-paper, in particular, has emerged as something of a killer application for printed electronics, demonstrating that printing technology can produce complex electronics products that can generate real revenue. NanoMarkets analysts also expect that as improved manufacturing equipment and materials become available further product opportunities will emerge.
Printing also seems certain to have a major role in the manufacturing of next-generation photovoltaics with novel CIGS and nanoparticle inks being used to create low-cost, high efficiency solar panels on flexible substrates. Projected sales for printed solar panels will reach $2.5 billion by 2015. Printed electronics will also make a contribution to energy savings through printed OLED lighting, an emerging cost effective approach to solid state illumination. This type of lighting is expected to reach $1.7 billion in sales by 2015.
Printing is no longer viewed as a wholesale fabrication technology. Instead, it is increasingly seen as an essential tool for manufacturing the new generation of flexible and large area electronics products. As products move from the lab to the fab, manufacturers are combining fabrication technologies, printing certain layers while using more conventional, sputtering, deposition and even optical lithography approaches on other layers.