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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Exploring New Markets in Organic, Printed and Flexible Electronics

After years of development, the technology for making electronic circuits with organic materials, non-vacuum processes, and flexible substrates is beginning to make significant progress.  Leading the way are OLED displays where Merrill Lynch estimates the market will grow from US$ 4 billion in 2011 to $20B in 2015 and as high as $35 billion in 2017.  Samsung alone is expected to spend $5 billion a year on OLED capex annually for the next several years.  As the OLED display market develops, many of the new manufacturing solutions, technologies and materials that emerge may be applied to other flexible and organic electronic applications including OLED lighting, thin film logic and memory, thin film batteries, and organic PV.
SEMI is responding to member needs in this area with conferences and programs in most regions of the world.  In February, SEMI acquired the Plastic Electronics Conference (held in conjunction with SEMICON Europa) in Europe and has established a Plastic Electronics Special Interest Group with prestigious members from leading academic and industry organizations with active programs in organic, large area and flexible electronics. A full-day of programs to OLED and printed electronics will be held at SEMICON West (Thursday, July 12), including a workshop on Metal Oxide TFT Devices and Technology (presented by Flextech Alliance),  and separate track on OLED displays and roll-to-roll manufacturing displays has been developed for the Strategic Materials Conference on October 23-24, in San Jose.  SEMICON Japan will have technical programs on OLED displays and plastic electronics in December.
OLED displays are the pacesetter in this new category of microelectronics. Samsung Mobile Displays has started manufacturing active matrix OLED (AMOLED) displays in a Gen 5.5 fab, and both Samsung and LG Display have announced plans to build Gen 8 (2200X2500 mm) fabs, while several other suppliers including AUO, CMI, IRICO, Tianma, and BOE are expected to expand their manufacturing investments. Long-time Japanese rivals Sony and Panasonic have just announced plans to jointly develop OLED TVs, targeting low-cost, mass production next year.
OLED lighting shares many similarities with OLED displays, but will not reach high-volume markets for a few years.  However, significant investments are being made in OLED lighting in the US, Europe, Japan and Korea.  About 100 companies including OSRAM, Philips, Konica-Minolta and GE are working on OLED lighting, supported by materials and equipment from companies such as Aixtron, Dainippon Screen, BASF, DuPont, Dow, Merck, Sumitomo, Toyko Electron, Toyo, and Ulvac.
In other applications, companies such as Applied Materials are working on solid state thin film batteries that have exciting technical and performance advantages such as high cycle life, almost zero self-discharge rate, high power capability, and very thin form factor.  These performance achievements have enabled the possibility of power components that last the life of a system, conformal batteries that can be integrated into product designs, and perpetual energy modules that combine batteries with energy harvesters. 
Technical developments have also been made in fully printed non-volatile, rewritable memory for applications in toys & games, logistics, sensor, and ID systems.  In organic PV, the German company Heliatek recently recorded a 9.8% cell efficiency, and is rumored to announce 12% shortly.
These markets are in their early stages, but represent a significant large-scale opportunities for high-volume manufacturing supported by SEMI members.  The Plastic Electronics Conference, held in conjunction with SEMICON Europa, will concentrate on these developing mega-markets with three symposia — OLED Lighting and Displays, Flexible and Organic PV and Integrated Smart Systems.  Last year, over 600 attendees participated in conference dedicated to the large-scale, lab-to-fab potential in printed electronics.  We think this the world’s premier event for taking plastics electronics from the “lab to the fab.”
Beyond, conferences and events, SEMI anticipates helping these markets accelerate through international standards development.  While still in their early stages, many materials manufacturers are incurring high-costs through having to develop unique test methods and characterization specifications for each customer.  Technology roadmap activities, public funding of critical R&D, technical education and promotion of new technologies are other activities that SEMI will take on with member support and guidance.
For more information on how SEMI can help you explore opportunities to expand into organic, flexible or printed electronics markets--or reduce your costs in serving these markets through SEMI Standards—please contact me at
For more information, on upcoming SEMI events in plastic electronics, please visit
July 11-SEMICON West--FlexTech Alliance Presents: Metal Oxide TFT Devices and Technology
July 12- SEMICON West-- Practical Plastic Electronics: Bringing Disruptive Flexible and Organic Materials into Volume Electronics Manufacturing
October 9-11-Plastics Electronics Conference and Exhibition (held in conjunction with SEMICON Europa), Dresden Germany.

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