Chart a future where silicon doesn’t rule
Have you heard about Canada’s fastest growing industry association?
In the six months since its launch, the Canadian Printable Electronics Industry Association, or CPEIA, has grown to 50 members and taken the reins of Canada’s only dedicated industry event. That event, the Canadian Printable Electronics Symposium (CPES2015) is taking place in Montreal, April 21-22.
The CPEIA has also pursued strategic partnerships with other industry associations that represent end users in its target market verticals – packaging, aerospace and defence, automotive, health and wellness, secure printing, marketing and commerce, and consumer electronics and wearables. These include the Continental Automated Buildings Association and Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.
“Our members and partners are drawn from all points in the supply chain,” said Peter Kallai, executive director of the CPEIA.
“Today, many of the applications for using printable and organic electronics (PE) are niche – our job is to identify suitable applications and bring our technology developers into contact with world-class companies to create new products and applications that address market needs.”
It’s been a heady ride for all involved.
“We’ve accomplished a lot in a short period of time,” said Kallai. “Now it’s time to build on that momentum by engaging our Membership to help build a strong printable and organic electronics supply chain in Canada.”
More than 120 public and private sector organizations in Canada are already involved to some degree in printable or organic electronics. But the sector in Canada remains at an early stage.
For the CPEIA and the organizations that helped found it, such as the National Research Council of Canada, this country’s market potential with PE is on par with the photonics opportunity of the 1990s.
According to research firm IDTechEx, the global market for printed and potentially printable electronics, including organics, inorganics and composites, will rise from about US$24 billion in 2014 to $70.4 billion in 2024, with a compound annual growth rate of 40 per cent. Those amounts jump dramatically when you include the total market value of the products that do, and could, incorporate PE components.
In the CPEIA’s view, Printable and Organic Electronics (PE) lies at the convergence of several industries in which Canada has a strong track record – advanced materials, micro-electronics, information and communications technologies, printing and advanced manufacturing.
Based on IDTechEx’s market forecasts, if Canada were to capture only 10 per cent of the estimated North American market by 2020, that would result in combined industry revenues of $1.2 billion for domestic companies.
For the electronics industry as a whole, Kallai emphasizes this market opportunity isn’t only about new products and applications. He sees vast potential in the replacement market for electronics components currently made from silicon.
New PE processes can add new features or intelligence to existing products through a combination of printed sensors, batteries, logic circuitry, displays and antennas for data transmission. Such intelligence can be added to ordinary objects such as currency and passports for added security.
But PE components can also replace some conventional components altogether, such as simple silicon chips, capacitors, resistors and low-voltage batteries that power small low-voltage displays. The benefit is a reduction in manufacturing time, complexity and cost, as well as additional advantages in terms of product size, shape and flexibility.
PE is not only applicable at the component level but also at the circuitry level, in areas such as LED lighting, touch screens, medical devices, wearable devices, conductive grids and many other applications. While the need for the conventional printed circuit board will always remain, it can be substituted in many cases with PE.
The first step, as with any emerging industry, is for stakeholders across the supply chain to step up and consider what is possible with the technology.
“There will always be a tendency to stick with convention, but new processes must be explored, especially at the design stage,” said David Perri, CEO of CPEIA member company Caledon Controls. “As long as companies are aware of what is available they can design or re-design accordingly. A lot of new technology is held back because designers don’t know what is available to them.”
“In some applications, the conventional printed circuit board can be replaced, either whole or in part, with printed components,” he said. “For electronics manufacturers, PE can help them cut costs and production cycles, and create new revenue models in what has in many ways become a commoditized industry.”
PE can also reduce the environmental risks of electronics manufacturing. Since it is an additive process, not subtractive, there is little need for waste treatment, as is the case with conventional processes, Perri said. This is a huge benefit for the environment.
Another benefit is that PE can help repatriate the large volume of printed circuit board manufacturing that has shifted to the Asian market due to cost reductions.
“PE has the ability to bring that manufacturing back, or at least, a large part of it, allowing the North American manufacturing sector to regain some substance,” Perri said.