IDTechEx's latest report, "Flexible Hybrid Electronics 2024-2034," delves into the burgeoning realm of Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE). With a forecasted market size of approximately US$1.8 billion by 2034, this innovative manufacturing methodology combines the best of printed and conventional electronics to address key questions surrounding digital and high-throughput manufacturing of circuit boards and stretchable electronics.
FHE represents a compelling solution for circuit manufacturing, seamlessly merging conductive inks on a flexible substrate with integrated circuits (ICs). Unlike complex multilayer circuits, FHE is ideally suited for applications that require relatively simple PCBs. It offers three distinct value propositions: additive digital manufacturing, conformality/stretchability, and compatibility with roll-to-roll (R2R) manufacturing. The success of FHE hinges on identifying the right product-market fit where these value propositions can shine, either by justifying a switch from existing technologies or enabling entirely new applications.
Additive Digital Manufacturing: Paving the Way for Prototyping and High-Mix Low-Volume Production
FHE's ability to print conductive ink digitally, using methods such as inkjet or laser-induced forward transfer (LIFT), opens doors to additive digital manufacturing. This makes FHE ideal for prototyping and very high-mix low-volume (HMLV) manufacturing. The technology also holds the potential for versioning and mass customization, a feat challenging to achieve without digital manufacturing. It significantly reduces waste compared to traditional subtractive approaches, making it advantageous for widely spaced components like LEDs for large area lighting, producible through R2R manufacturing.
Conformality/Stretchability: Enhancing Flexibility for Wearable Technology
Conformality/stretchability stands as a hallmark of FHE. Unlike flexible PCBs that incorporate rigid islands for mounting ICs, FHE circuits are more flexible, with many components being printable. This stretchable or bendable nature allows for a shorter bending radius and even stretchability, making it an ideal candidate for wearable technology like electronic skin patches and e-textiles. Improved wearer comfort is achieved by eliminating the rigidity associated with conventional electronics. Challenges, however, encompass aspects like washability and sustainability in comparison to reusable rigid electronics.
R2R Manufacturing: Cost-Efficient, Rapid Deposition for Large-Volume Production
For large-volume manufacturing, FHE employs rotary analog methods like flexography, gravure, and rotary screen printing to print conductive traces. This approach enables rapid deposition via roll-to-roll (R2R) manufacturing, significantly cutting costs. Cost benefits are especially pronounced when traces can be printed onto existing surfaces like packaging labels, eliminating the need for dedicated structures. As smart packaging and RFID adoption continue to grow, R2R FHE production is poised to expand to more sophisticated smart packaging circuits, offering enhanced functionality such as sensing.
Comprehensive Insights from IDTechEx
IDTechEx's report, "Flexible Hybrid Electronics 2024-2034," provides in-depth insights into the status and potential of FHE circuits. Drawing on extensive experience in the printed electronics industry and interviews with 40 key companies, the report explores trends, materials, components, and manufacturing methods required for FHE. It also examines application sectors where FHE adoption is likely, with a focus on automotive, consumer goods, energy, healthcare/wellness, and infrastructure/buildings/industrial sectors. Granular market forecasts dissect FHE opportunities across 39 specific application sectors, including skin temperature sensors and printed RFID tags.
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Publisher: PCB Directory