Stretchable electronics: out of the lab and into the market
By James Hayward, senior technology analyst, IDTechEx, Cambridge, UKElectronics Production / Materials Contract Manufacturing Engineering Supply Chain components
Whilst the latest electronic components continue to push the boundaries of performance, there are many that now see Moore’s Law reaching its ultimate limits.
Electronic devices continue to achieve increasing levels of ubiquity, but for this to continue, electronics need new form factors in order to integrate seamlessly into our surroundings. A new report from IDTechEx summarizes all of the most important information with regards to the commercialization of stretchable electronics. This major paradigm shift towards novel form factors has been in the making for more than a decade now, yet is only now beginning to make a substantial commercial impact.
The report covers all stretchable electronic materials and components that are either commercial today, or are approaching commercialisation within the next decade. This ranges from established growing markets (various sensor types, circuit boards and other stretchable connectors and cabling, etc.), to new emerging markets (stretchable examples of conductive inks, TCF and e-textiles, relevant substrates for each, other sensors including smart skins, in-mold electronics, etc.) and finally to long-term projects in stretchable electronics which remain largely academic today but will become more important with time (energy storage and harvesting solutions, new sensor types, displays, transistors and more).
In the last few years there has been a significant influx of commercial players introducing new stretchable electronic products to the market. Most of these new commercial examples have presented material and component options that will find their way into new stretchable products in the coming years. With detailed 10-year forecasts for 10 different component types and pooled data from 32 different product types, the report offers the most comprehensive overview of stretchable electronic offerings today, leveraging IDTechEx’s extensive work over the last decade.
These stretchable electronic components will form the basis of new products across a series of industries. In some cases, these products will be novel, as stretchability enables electronics to go where they have not been present before. This could be part of skin patches, surgical catheter, within a compression garment or bandage or as a smart skin or novel end effector for a robot. In other cases, stretchable electronics will enhance our existing products, enabling us to add to existing electronic functionality and improve its utility. This could be as an extension to an existing medical device, or a new one in a hospital bedsheet or gown, as a console in a vehicle or in white goods or as other structural electronics, examples of which are beginning to appear today. The report forecasts pool data from 32 product types into 6 different categories and 5 different vertical markets.
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