The second and final day of Printed Electronics USA in Santa Clara really illustrated how far the technologies had progressed and the huge variety of players in the field. The event, organized by IDTechEx, was the best and biggest edition of the series so far. Amongst the attendees were company founders, directors, engineers, academics, but also students and patent attorneys. In particular, there were a large number of end users attending the show.
The three parallel tracks covered a wide range of applications, such as sensors, displays and memory, but also materials like conductive inks and barrier films. An additional track was dedicated to manufacturing and Graphene LIVE! was also running at the same time.
Well established companies such as E Ink and Corning gave presentations about their latest product concepts. Dr Aki Tomita from Citala talked about how a smart window could regulate indoor temperature by controlling the transmission of solar heat, without resulting in a darker room.
There were also talks from leading academics. For example, Prof Reinhold Dauskardt from Stanford University presented a new material made of silicon carbide that surprisingly had the same elastic properties of plastic.
Dr Alex Turnbull from British company Avidity IP was here to emphasize the importance of building a patent portfolio from a business perspective. Full awareness of the existing IP landscape can indeed lead to a greater freedom to operate.
Origami on Manufacturing Street
On the tradeshow floor, some brands were already well known, like PolyIC, Thinfilm, Xaar or DuPont. Others were new to the show. Take ISORG for example. For this French startup company, it was the first time at Printed Electronics USA. This was a good opportunity to see demos of their printed photo-detector arrays in action. IDTechEx also had a booth and many attendees walked in to seek some advice from the team of analysts.
Like previous years, visitors could also see some samples of products at Demonstration Street. One of the most popular was a 23" touch panel by Cambrios that used the proprietary ClearOhm material instead of a conventional ITO layer. But the key novelty this year was Manufacturing Street, a dedicated space for showing various printing processes. Novacentrix certainly made a big impression with their Pulseforge photonic curing tool running right in front of the visitors.
Manufacturing Street was also the place to collect a sample of origami electronics, a printed circuit on paper which is only functional when correctly folded. For the visitors it was a fun and interactive way to learn more about printed batteries and conductive ink. Prof Malcolm Keif of California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly) came up with the concept during a class on printed electronics. But he did not expect so much success during the show. "There was a lot of interest from the show attendees. I was amazed at how many people came to pick up [the origami kit]." He explained that using regular paper as the substrate for the conductive ink was probably what intrigued most people. "I love it, it was amazing", said Emma Lacey, a CalPoly student who helped screen print the samples. For her, being at Printed Electronics USA for the first time was a great opportunity to see real demos of what she had learnt in class, and witness all the latest development of the technology. "It was unique, unexpectedly."
The closing keynotes were truly international, with speakers from Japan, South Africa and UK.
Prof Toshihide Kamata from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) gave an overview of the latest development from his research group. His talk addressed various technology advances in organic semiconductor technology towards the emergence of ambient electronic devices.
Next, Prof David Britton (University of Cape Town) reminded the audience that silicon could also be used as a printable material. He explained how charge transport was enabled between clusters of silicon nanoparticles, and introduced a new type of transistor based on silicon and silver. This latest discovery was still under review for publication and most attendees would have never heard of it before.
Finally, Dr Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx, gave the concluding remarks. He noted that printed electronics was being rapidly commercialized, especially in the automotive industry where it delivers huge improvements in cost, volume, weight and reliability. Closing the conference, he invited the audience to keep an eye on several hot topics for next year: graphene, supercapacitors, touch surfaces and additive (3D) printing.
Berlin in 2013
The Printed Electronics series of events will be moving next to Berlin, Germany, included in the event will be Printed Electronics Europe 2013 and Graphene LIVE! Europe 2013. For the first time, it will also be co-located with Energy Harvesting and Storage Europe 2013 and Wireless Sensor Networks 2013. Analysts IDTechEx see the co-location of all these topics as a great benefit to attendees - not only will the networking opportunities be vast, but the overlap between topics is becoming more evident as the industries progress. To find out about the event, see www.PrintedElectronicsEurope.com