The sector includes profitable large sectors, the majority being OLEDs (organic but not printed) and conductive ink used for a wide range of applications. On the other hand, stretchable electronics, logic and memory, thin film sensors and other components are much smaller segments today, just emerging from R&D.
A snapshot view of the technologies, development time, 2013 market size and general sector profitability and short term growth is shown below.
Table 1. State of commercialization of printed, organic and flexible electronics in 2013.
Source: Printed, Organic & Flexible Electronics: Forecasts, Players & Opportunities 2013-2023”. Note that in some cases above the value of the film is included and not the module value – see the report for more detail.
Billion-dollar sale successes
So far there have been three billion-dollar sales successes; OLEDs, e-paper and conductive ink. OLEDs are seeing continual adoption in cellphones and OLED TV sales have begun this year. IDTechEx see much movement in the display sector, as panel makers try and distance themselves from losses in the LCD industry, caused by new competition from China, and seek to differentiate. The landscape will change with some East Asian countries potentially unable to afford extensive R&D in OLEDs such as Taiwan and new entrants, such as China. E-paper sales have declined as e-reader sales have declined. To reach that sales peak again new markets are being explored as is colour, video capable bistable displays.
IDTechEx find that the overall conductive ink market size is in decline this year as it was last year, due to less use in the photovoltaic market. However, thereafter the market will increase again as the PV sector shakes-out and other markets for conductive inks continue to grow.
Companies reposition for profitability
Some companies have survived ten years without making substantial sales or any profit. Some of these are now repositioning from trying to do something very difficult, such as replacing complete existing devices, to