In comparison with traditional circuit manufacturing, the appeal of printed electronics is strong. The use of additive printing methods to deposit the functional electronic materials only where needed allows the use of lowcost flexible substrate materials such as polymers and even paper. Especially in comparison with traditional etch-based subtractive manufacturing, printing electronics is also very environmentally friendly. And while subtractive manufacturing processes are well understood and entrenched in industry, so to are printing methods including inkjet, screen, flexographic, and gravure. From both efficiency and environmental aspects then, printed electronics as a manufacturing method is very compelling.
The value potential of current and future products produced by printed electronics methods is in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and the dollar investment in efforts to reach that potential has also been significant, across a number of markets. Entire new generations of thin film, flexible photo-voltaics, low-cost and adaptable RFID tags, new flexible displays, and even smart, functional packaging are predicated on the availability of new materials and manufacturing techniques. Product visions range from solar cell panels that are unrolled when needed (some are already on the market!), semi-disposable cell phones and media players that are seamlessly woven into fashion clothing, light-weight durable high-definition displays that can be rolled up and easily transported, and even new space flight vehicle designs incorporating light-weight control systems.