Two years ago, the hot topic at Printed Electronics in Dresden was colour displays. But since then, Sony has beaten a hasty retreat and it’s taken longer to get to commercial monochrome printed or plastic displays than people had hoped in 2008. This year, the emphasis is on the definitely less sexy end of the business. Smart labels and packaging; low-end stuff that barely needs any circuitry at all.
Even in displays, some companies are now looking at a way to cut the cost of making existing types of screen, such as liquid-crystal display (LCDs) rather than trying to open up a market for organic LED screens, especially now that Sony has retired hurt - although Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx, the company that organises the conference, reckons they will be back with updated versions at some stage.
Sharp is seriously looking at a way of using printing to replace lithography in the manufacture of its LCDs. According to Tolis Voutsas, director of the materials and devices applications lab at Sharp Laboratories of America, the company could knock 60 per cent out of the cost of making some LCDs simply by “abolishing lithography”, once printed transistors get to the necessary level of performance.