Engineering 101

Conductive Inks Solve More Problems

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In 2020 the market for conductive inks will be $2.4bn, according to extensive research by IDTechEx. Of that, 95% of the conductive ink supply by value goes into just three applications, the printed bus bars and fingers on PV solar cells, exterior automotive heating applications (defoggers) and touch screen edge electrodes.

However, for years now there has been work on a myriad of new applications for conductive ink which are beginning to come to commercial fruition. These market opportunities will be in the spotlight at Printed Electronics Europe 2020, held in Berlin on 13th to 14th May 2020, with over 2,500 attendees and over 250 speakers covering the broad range of opportunities. Many exhibit compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of several hundred percent through to 2025.

Here, Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx has assessed some of those opportunities.

Material Opportunities for 5G

The opportunity: By 2025 the value of 5G connections globally will be worth $303 Billion.

The problem: For highest speed data transfer 5G systems will use higher frequencies such as 28Ghz and 39Ghz, significantly higher than the 0.7Ghz – 2.5Ghz frequencies typically used in a cellphone. This results in more potential for electromagnetic interference (EMI) between componentry, so they need to be adequately ‘shielded’. Another key trend here is the rise of multi-chip packages in which connectivity as well as other dies sit inside a single package. In such cases, even internal EMI shielding and compartmentalization might be required.

The printed electronics solution: Spray-on, coat-on or print-on solutions are in now in testing and early production, which offer uniform coverage of components at higher manufacturing speed and potentially at lower cost.

Printed Electronics Europe 2020 features a session on material opportunities for 5G, including EMI shielding advances.

Material Opportunities for Power Semiconductors in Electric Vehicles

The opportunity: In 2025 126 tonnes of die attach material will be needed for electric vehicles.

The problem: The electric vehicle market is expanding. As a consequence, the market for power modules within all manners of electric vehicles is growing, using semiconductor technologies such as SiC and GaN. The trend is towards higher power densities which translates to higher operational temperatures, from 170 Degrees Celsius towards 250 Degrees Celsius. The materials around the power packages need to cope with these higher temperatures.

The printed electronics solution: Silver offers high conductivity and a high melting point versus conventional semiconductor attachment materials. Nanoparticle silver is already being used by some EV makers as part of the die attach system.

Printed Electronics Europe 2020 features sessions on die attach materials and materials for heat management within electric vehicles.

Printed Heaters in Autonomous and/or Electric Vehicles

The opportunity: In 2025 148 million electric vehicles will be sold, across land, water and air electric vehicles types.

The problems: Cold temperatures impact batteries by increasing their internal resistance and lowering their capacity. For those living in very cold climates, electric vehicle batteries may therefore need assisted heating. LIDAR systems, used to enable autonomy, require clear optical pathways, so any ice or snow on the LIDAR optics needs to be melted away through a heating system. Additionally, without an internal combustion engine, electric vehicles require other ways to produce heat for the occupants.

The printed electronics solution: Printed heaters are lightweight, offer relative ease with custom designs and shapes and are typically flexible for easy integration and application of heat where it is needed.

Printed Electronics Europe 2020 features presentations and exhibitors covering these aspects including transparent heaters and flexible heaters.

3D Electronics to Improve Human Machines Interfaces

The opportunity: The market for 3D printed electronics and Circuit prototyping will be worth over $1bn by 2025.

The problem: Combining circuit substrates, switches, LEDs and other components and then fitting these to control panels involves a relatively high numbers of components and tooling set up time. Often the final product is not weight efficient and nor is it most cost effective for small batch numbers.

The printed electronics solution: Printing the wiring, switches and other components and then molding this as the final structure can overcome the above limitations. The final pieces can be lighter weight. It can be easier to change or customize designs. Differentiation can be provided by having interactive 3D surfaces rather than 2D ones.

Printed Electronics Europe 2020 features presentations and exhibitors covering In Mold Electronics, film inserted electronics and 3D printed electronics.

These are just four of the opportunities that will be covered, in addition to others including antennas, sensors, e-textiles, electronic skin patches and more.

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