The printed electronics industry is still in the midst of an upswing. LOPEC, the International Exhibition and Conference for printed electronics, brings together researchers, developers and users from this industry. This event takes place from April 5–7, 2016 in Munich, Germany. In a recent interview, two industry experts and members of the LOPEC Board talk about last year’s developments in the industry of organic and printed electronics, what participants can expect at the upcoming conference and why wearables is one of the focus points of LOPEC 2016.
An interview with Wolfgang Mildner, LOPEC General Chair and owner of the consulting and technology company MSW, and Thibaud Le Séguillon, Chair of the Business Conference and CEO of the solar-film manufacturer Heliatek.
One of the focal points of LOPEC 2016 is wearables. Is the printed electronics sector particularly successful in this field?
Wolfgang Mildner: Printed electronics is already established in a number of industries. And it is still in the midst of an upswing—quite a bit is happening right now. We are placing greater emphasis on the trending topic of wearables because it concerns multiple sectors of the industry. Wearable electronics can be found in watches, fitness equipment, clothing with sensors and a number of other applications that have to be lightweight, thin and flexible. However, LOPEC will not lose sight of other topics such as the packaging technology.
Thibaud Le Séguillon: Printed electronics has also an enormous potential in the medical sector. Every diabetic who places a drop of blood on a test strip to measure their blood sugar now uses printed electronics. And then there are healing therapies that use light: When you stick a type of luminous patch on your hip in the future, we are back to the topic of wearables.
What has happened in the field of printed electronics during the last year?
Mildner: The trend toward hybrid solutions has gained momentum. It combines the advantages of printed organic electronics and conventional silicon technology. Polyera, for example, will present a wristband at LOPEC that consists entirely of a flexible display. It shows bodily functions as well as classic data such as the time and is, of course, connected to the Internet. The sensor technology is printed electronics, but the processors consist entirely of classic silicon.
Le Séguillon: Perhaps I can add an example based on my own experience in organic photovoltaics. We installed a large pilot plant for printed organic solar cells in Singapore. Due to severe forest fires in Indonesia and all the smoke they created, there was no direct sunlight in Singapore. Classic photovoltaics did not generate any electricity there for weeks, but our technology also works very well with diffused light. More and more we are seeing that organic, and in the broader sense printed electronics, has no need to hide behind classic silicon technology.
The LOPEC conference is divided into three blocks: business, technology and science. What awaits the conference’s participants?
Mildner: Once again, the program of events will include some 200 presentations, and plenary sessions serve as a common framework for the three theme-oriented blocks. A representative of Audi will for example discuss the use of organic light diodes in vehicle lighting. A talk from Adidas about printed electronics in sporting goods is also confirmed. I am furthermore looking forward to a presentation from Belgian-based Carta Mundi, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of card games. Thanks to printed electronics, game cards could become more interactive. Major Asian manufacturers such as TCL from China and Sumitomo from Japan will also hold presentations. In addition, leading scientists such as Professor Henning Sirringhaus from the University of Cambridge, an eminent authority in the field of printed electronics, will report on the latest developments in research.
Mr. Le Séguillon, you are putting together the program for the Business Conference. What is planned there?
Le Séguillon: Through the network of the OE-A (Organic and Printed Electronics Association) and my personal contacts, I invited CEOs from companies in Europe, the United States and Asia. Feedback has been outstanding, and we have put together a first-rate program that covers all aspects of printed electronics. For example, a representative of Schott will present ultra-thin glass as a substrate for printed electronics. The glass can even be rolled, making it ideal for manufacturing flexible displays. We will furthermore hear the latest news about organic semiconductors in a talk from the British company SmartKem. Naturally, manufacturers of end products will also be holding presentations. For instance, FeelIT from Israel will report on intelligent bandages. In the Business Sessions, we will hear about success stories and examine the entire value chain.
Does the conference only address specialists who already deal with printed electronics?
Le Séguillon: No, absolutely not. The combination of the conference and the exhibition gives everyone who is interested the perfect opportunity to gather comprehensive information. The Business Conference will also deal with market forecasts. Of course, that is difficult in an aspiring sector such as printed electronics, but there are several people who deal with it in detail and who will share their views at LOPEC.
Mildner: We are offering free introductory lectures and guided tours of the exhibition for companies that want to learn more about this new technology. There are also plenty of innovative start-ups—they have to exhibit, they have to make presentations, and we want to support that.
How can you convince those companies of the advantages of printed electronics?
Mildner: That is not always necessary. In some cases, printed electronics is supporting a market trend. Take wearables, for example. In that case, printed electronics came into the game because they had the right properties. How they are manufactured—i.e. whether or not they are printed—is not that important to companies. That also applies to the automotive industry: In that case, lightweight components that are also flexible and can give designers more design freedom are interesting because of their characteristics, and not the technology.
Additional information about LOPEC is available at www.lopec.com
Learn more about the LOPEC Conference or download additional photo materials in print-ready quality.