BOSTON, April 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- While flexible electronics have been around for years, either as flexible PCBs or genuinely printed electronics, there has always been a trade-off between flexibility and capability. Circuits with a few printed transistors based on organic semiconductors could be printed onto flexible substrates but were not generally capable of significant data processing. On the other hand, thanks to adherence with Moore's law, very capable silicon ICs (integrated circuits) are incredibly cheap on a per transistor basis but impose a rigid form factor and require careful placement onto a substrate.
Flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) ends this compromise. It promises to combine the extensive processing capability of integrated circuits with a flexible form factor, and with printed rather than etched conductive interconnects. This combination of attributes opens a wide range of application possibilities, across many different industries. Indeed, the new IDTechEx report "Flexible Hybrid Electronics 2020-2030," finds that this could be a $3 Bn market by 2030.
The global market research firm, IDTechEx, believe that FHE provides a compelling technological approach towards the vision of ubiquitous electronics. The combination of flexibility, processing/communication capability and ultimately compatibility with low-cost, high volume continuous manufacturing methods is unique to FHE, but highly applicable to many different sectors. The new FHE report identifies five main application sectors: smart packaging, wearable/healthcare monitoring, consumer electronics, industrial/environmental monitoring, and automotive/aeronautical. For each application sector IDTechEx's Analysts evaluate a range of prototypes from different manufacturers/research centres, and for each application subsector outline the required circuit attributes, technologies and their technological readiness level. This insight is then employed in constructing detailed market forecasts, by both volumes and revenues, for each application sub-sector.
Perhaps the most compelling opportunity for FHE is ubiquitous, low cost wirelessly enabled RFID sensors. These could be employed in industrial and environmental monitoring, and in smart packaging. Such capability is a prerequisite for the vision of connected devices and the "Internet of Things," in which data from an increasingly wide range of items is transmitted to the cloud before applying machine learning. At present, passive RFID tags are produced by the billion. Indeed, IDTechEx have been analyzing the RFID market research since the early 2000s and they estimate around 18 billion RFID tags will be produced in 2020 (see the IDTechEx report titled "RFID Forecasts, Players and Opportunities 2019-2029" for a complete analysis of the global RFID industry). FHE would enable "functional RFID sensors" that can monitor other attributes such as temperature, humidity, stress and strain at specified intervals, and then transmit that information either to a reader or via wireless networks.
IDTechEx's new report, "Flexible Hybrid Electronics 2020-2030: Applications, Challenges, Innovations and Forecasts," offers a comprehensive analysis of this emerging technology frontier. The analysts from IDTechEx have been assessing and following the printed electronic technologies and markets for well over a decade. This report is based on fresh primary research including interviews and company visits with all the key players worldwide. It identifies and examines all the key innovation trends and opportunities across the material and production systems, covering attachment, substrate, flexible ICs and conductive inks, as well as production techniques including high-throughput pick-and-place and various S2S and R2R printing techniques. This report builds an application roadmap, showing how FHE will grow in complexity from simple RFID tags of today to complex flexible hybrid electronics of the future, enabling applications in smart packaging, industrial monitoring and wearable devices and more. Smart packaging is forecast to be the dominant application by volume, although wearable/healthcare monitoring applications are likely to be first to achieve significant market penetration.
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