Identifying customers and building relationships, generating creativity in defining new products, and converging functions were the major themes from speakers who participated in the 9th Annual Flexible Electronics and Displays Conference held February 2- 4, 2010 in Phoenix, Ariz. The Flex Conference, the leading North American event for announcing new products and R&D outcomes, saw conference attendance rise 16% to 425 registrants, exceeding 2008-2009 levels. The conference also featured product exhibits from leading technology companies including 3M, Applied Materials, DuPont Teijin Films, E ink, HP, and PARC.
Michael Ciesinski, CEO of the conference organizer, FlexTech Alliance, stated “FlexTech’s goal for the Flex Conference is to create a forum for company representatives to network, assess, analyze and then put new strategies into action. We are very pleased at the results of the 2010 event and to provide this great opportunity for industry growth.”
Mark Bernstein, CEO of the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) opened the conference by describing the impact that a disruptive technology can create, citing the explosive growth of the e-reader/e-book market. Challenges that companies face in anticipating and responding to technology disruptions, as described by Bernstein, include creating an early warning system; bringing in outside expertise/open innovation partners; and positioning themselves flexibly for new near and long term opportunities. Resolving these challenges will permit companies to build sustainable, successful customer relationships
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s John Pellegrino followed with an address on dual-use (commercial and defense) technology opportunities. He cited the new products enabled by flexible, printed electronics including displays, sensors, lighting, and energy harvesting and storage. “Presently, we are limited by our imagination,” stated Dr. Pellegrino, in encouraging product developers to pursue out-of –the-box innovations that take advantage of conformal, lightweight electronics.
Convergence in mobile devices and the impact on embedded displays was described by Jonathan Griffith, Director of Technology Planning for Qualcomm MEMs Technologies. The convergence of applications includes basic communications and information sharing, photography and video, internet access, music, and gaming. The result is a display mostly in the “on” position that, in turn, creates a power gap. While heavier batteries are one solution, Griffith cited improved display performance and efficiency as the preferred outcome.
ID TechEx Technology Analyst Dr. Harry Zervos forecast the growth of the printed electronics industry from $2B in 2010 to over $50B by 2020. “Large growth is predicted in areas such as OLEDS, e-paper technologies and thin film photovoltaics. The promise of flexibility and the ability to overcome difficulties such as encapsulation in the next few years will lead to growth based largely in innovation in form factor and lower cost of manufacturing,” stated Zervos.
The Flex Conference is often a forum for industry news and the 2010 event followed that tradition. Kovio and Nissan Chemical Industries, Ltd., (NCI) a Japanese chemical company supplying cutting-edge products in fields including electronic materials, announced a joint collaboration and development agreement. NCI will commercially produce Kovio's proprietary silicon ink technology and supply Kovio with silicon ink products for its RF products and other strategic applications. In addition, NCI intends to commercialize silicon ink products based on Kovio's technology in the Asian display industry.
The Flex Conference 2010 featured more than 80 presentations in twenty-three tracks including equipment and materials for flexible electronics and displays, energy storage, inks, OLEDs, photovoltaics, printed electronics, sensors, and thin film transistors.