Plastic Electronics - The Impact and Consequences of Plastic Electronics

Topics Covered

Plastic Electronics
     Novel Materials Properties
     Manufacturing Economies
Consequences of Plastic Electronics
     Lower Cost of Entry
     New Industry Boundaries

Plastic Electronics

NanoMarkets believes that “plastic” electronics, based on thin-film transistors (TFTs) fabricated using organic films, offers some radically new directions for electronics including the creation of a range of entirely new products that could not be manufactured using conventional CMOS approaches.  There are two fundamental reasons why plastic electronics is special:

  • Novel Materials Properties
  • Manufacturing Economies

Novel Materials Properties

The flexibility of thin-films themselves suggest new product directions, including roll-up displays, very low cost RFIDs, and flexible sensor and photovoltaic arrays.  Plastic electronics also generates very little heat and uses small amounts of power, alleviating major problems that dog conventional electronics.  We believe that the approaches to plastic electronics with the greatest commercial prospects are the ones that emphasize these advantages to the fullest that is, the ones offering lowest manufacturing costs while achieving flexible substrates and ability to cover large areas.

Manufacturing Economies

The manufacturing processes that will ultimately be adopted for building plastic electronics products remain in flux.  However, it seems likely that the economics of plastic electronics will be much more attractive than state-of-the-art CMOS manufacturing.  There is no need to build fabs costing billions of dollars.  Instead, a new paradigm is being created in which electronic circuits are printed using ink-jet technologies, stamping or some other similar process.  This means that plastic electronics products could be produced economically in relatively short runs and even customized to the needs to low-volume customers. 

Consequences of Plastic Electronics

One consequence of these dramatic differences from conventional electronics is that plastic electronics has the ability to change the industry structure:

  • Lower Cost of Entry
  • New Industry Boundaries

Lower Cost of Entry

Some of the new production methods lower the cost of entry into the electronics business.  If electronic circuitry can be created with something akin to an inkjet printer, semiconductor firms can start producing their own circuitry at relatively low capital costs.  This could impact the trend towards fabless firms, whose business models are based on the fact that smaller firms simply cannot afford to get into the manufacturing of chips.

New Industry Boundaries

If the new plastic electronics is all about printing with organic inks onto flexible substrates, it opens up the business to firms such as Xerox and Hewlett-Packard, which have long histories in the non-impact printing business.  More importantly, some materials firms with a background in organic chemicals are likely to see plastic electronics as an emerging opportunity.

Source: NanoMarkets

For more information on this source please visit Nanomarkets.

Date Added: Jul 19, 2005 | Updated: Jun 11, 2013
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