Advanced Technologies for Industry – Flexible and Printed Electronics – Product Watch

This report is part of the 'Advanced Technologies for Industry' project and focuses on the state and potential of flexible and printed electronics within the European Union (EU). Flexible electronics are lightweight, bendable components built on stretchable substrates like plastic or paper. They are used in products ranging from displays to sensors and are manufactured using techniques like roll-to-roll imprinting and inkjet printing. This field overlaps with printed electronics, which involve creating electronic devices by printing them on flexible substrates.

Flexible electronics offer several advantages over conventional, silicon-based electronics:

  1. Low manufacturing costs due to efficient printing methods.
  2. Flexibility in design for applications requiring bending, such as foldable smartphones.
  3. Easier recycling, resulting in a smaller environmental footprint.

Materials used range from organic substances like polymers to metals and inorganic materials like silver, copper, and various oxides. Organic materials often have flexible and biodegradable characteristics, making them especially useful in healthcare applications like wearable sensors and smart patches.

The technology has broad application potential:

  • Healthcare: Wearables that monitor health parameters.
  • Automotive: Displays and sensors, although market entry has been challenging.
  • Building and Construction: IoT-enabled smart buildings.
  • Energy and Photovoltaics: Flexible solar cells for diverse applications.
  • Textiles: Interactive clothing.
  • Consumer Electronics: Foldable smartphones, smartwatches.
  • Packaging and Logistics: Smart packaging for enhanced safety and quality.

The market for flexible and printed electronics is growing, with projections indicating it could expand from €37.8 billion in 2020 to €68 billion by 2030. However, the industry faces challenges such as high costs in certain application areas, which make it less competitive against conventional electronics. Germany leads in the European market, followed by Spain and France.

The report aims to provide stakeholders with comprehensive insights into the EU’s flexible electronics industry, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for staying competitive globally.

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