The conductive ink market is diverse. This is shown in the schematic below, showing the commercialization status of diverse spectrum applications. This diversity is both a blessing and a curse.
A blessing because diversity imparts long-term resilience to the market and has allowed the technology to stay relevant over decades by always finding new markets and growth opportunities. A curse because this diversity makes market segmentation, analysis, and focus a challenge and because it also makes the development of a universal one-size-fits product or of sales by catalogue rather difficult.
On the contrary, it makes the ability to customize formulation depending on the printing, adhesion, conductivity, stretchability, or other requirements of the application a strategic competency.
IDTechEx Research has been analysing the markets for conductive inks for nearly a decade. In this time, nearly all of the key suppliers and users have been interviewed, analysts have visited or lectured tens of events worldwide, and have performed many projects, helping companies find applications and customers, acquire technologies, or make other investment decisions.
The results of the research from IDTechEx are represented in the comprehensive report, ‘Conductive Ink Markets 2020-2030: Forecasts, Technologies, Players’. This report offers many self-contained chapters, each focusing on the technology and market analysis of a given existing or emerging application. It is designed to help the market players make sense of emerging and existing applications, finding the right future growth segments.
In particular, the following markets/trends are of interesting:
- 5G: The trend towards sub-6GHz 5G is enabling a transition of the power amplifier technology from Si LDMOS to GaN. This transition has thrown the market doors open to new die attach technologies, making this an interesting time for sintered paste die attach materials including pressure-less ones. In addition, filtering requirements in mmWave 5G will change, driving a transition in the technology of choice as performance requirements will be beyond incumbent solutions. Multi-layer LTCC based solutions are a promising option. The success will in turn create a market for conductive pastes.
- Electric vehicles: the sales of electric vehicles are worldwide increasing. In turn, this means more demand for power electronics. The power electronic technology itself is changing. In particular, wide bandgap materials are gaining traction. In any case, the power density and the operating temperature are rising, in some cases beyond what existing solder can handle. In turn, this has opened many growing opportunities for Ag or Cu sintered (pressure, little pressure, or pressure less) die attach pastes. In addition, battery backs are a potential target opportunity. Here, printed temperature sensors are being proposed to offer battery monitoring.
- Automotive (general): In addition to the electric vehicle business, the automotive business has emerged as an important target market for conductive pastes. Traditional applications include rear window de-frosters, occupancy or seat belt sensors, and seat heat sensors. The seat heating and sensor applications have extensive growth potential, whilst the window heaters will be changing their form, evolving towards transparent heaters. Emerging applications include 3D-shaped user interfaces or some exterior parts made with InMold Electronics.
- EMI shielding: this continues to be an interesting market, especially with those OSATs or integrated chip makers selling into the non-Korean markets where there is no or little excess sputtering capacity to hinder the adoption of ink-based alternatives. Qualification is still on going and, in some cases, small production units already exist. Covid-19 may have helped, delaying some decision points and giving the tech the option to further mature.
- E-textiles, wearables, and skin patches: The market in e-textiles is growing, albeit slightly. There is a lack of standards or even clearly defined product requirements. The supply chain is immature. Nonetheless, products are being launched. The skin patch business is huge and booming, and here printed conductors can add value in enhancing product performance and user comfort/experience. Many prototypes have already been demonstrated.
There are many other exciting markets. Even the huge silicon PV market contained surprising new opportunities- e.g., advanced activity on inkjet printed high-performance silicon PVs. To learn more about the conductive ink market please visit ‘Conductive Ink Markets 2020-2030: Forecasts, Technologies, Players’.