Printing techniques such as gravure, inkjet, flexography and lithograph have enabled the development of various cost-efficient electronic equipment and multi-material parts, according to Frost & Sullivan’s latest Novel Printing Techniques for Organic Electronics study. While novel-printing techniques have been employed primarily to produce consumer electronics such as organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), continuing technology and material advancements will extend its use to the wearable, automotive, building and architecture segments, the report says.
According to current trends, the consumer electronics space will be where printing techniques make their mark as the sustainable and preferred method to manufacture the next generation of products. Inkjet printing holds the most promise for consumer electronics, followed by energy, lighting, packaging and automotive applications, the study says. While inkjet and screen-printing technologies are best for low-volume, high-precision work, compatibility with roll-to-roll processing enables use in manufacturing organic electronic products in large volumes. For high-volume production, gravure, offset and flexographic printing technologies are used.
“These printing techniques have penetrated various application segments due to the ability to deposit ink on the substrate with high accuracy and throughput,” notes Technical Insights research analyst Sitanshu Shastri. “Though the throughput of printing technologies that enable high-volume production is more than that of those that drive low-volume production, the precision of ink deposition on the substrate is similar in both cases.”
On the downside, current applications require the matching of ink-jetting heads with the printing process to increase the efficiency of printing on the substrate. This, along with issues related to the supply chain, such as poor collaboration among players, has dampened market development.
“Existing printing technology companies must develop clusters with their respective regional industry and public authorities and stimulate inter-cluster collaboration activities,” explains Shastri. “They must also find ways to cope with competition from emerging players with advanced printing technologies, as this will exert pressure on profit margins.”
Further, companies must strategically position their technology to generate maximum revenue prior to patent expiration and address demand from international markets. Printing companies must focus on developing functional fluids, inks and substrates that can provide better results in terms of quality and lifetime. They should also introduce techniques that can reduce waste of raw materials and enable high-resolution printing.
“The key to success for inkjet printing companies is to ensure exceptional coating uniformity to produce high-quality OLED displays,” adds Technical Insights senior research analyst Sumit Kumar Pal. “Ultra-low particle performance as well as better process reliability and uptime will be major competitive differentiators.”