Flexible barriers: a USD1 billion opportunity by 2022 says IDTechEx

August 20, 2012 // By Julien Happich
As more and more flexible devices are becoming available, the need for better performing barriers and encapsulation materials at lower cost points intensifies.

The stringent requirements make this a difficult task for some applications, although others, with less intensive demands are already appearing in the market.

Examples include flexible electrophoretic displays (e-paper) currently being commercialized as e-book readers, smart labels, etc. IDTechEx forecasts a USD1 Billion opportunity for the market of encapsulation materials for a variety of applications.

According to IDTechEx' studies, in 2012 6% of printed electronics will be conformal or flexible (mainly due to the huge rise in the adoption of OLED on glass for smart phones and tablet applications) while the rest will remain rigid (usually being that they are on a rigid glass substrate). In 2022 the amount that is conformal/flexible rises to 32% of the total value.

Supporting that increasing trend are interviews with companies like 3M, who are describing their efforts in making flexible barriers available at price points that are comparable to that of optical glass, increasing competitiveness as well as offering unique selling points such as lighter weight and increased robustness. Nokia, presenting at IDTechEx Printed Electronics events, has shown roadmaps to move to OLED displays in their cell phones - when they are available on plastic substrates. Samsung has already moved on to OLED displays even though they are still on glass and they tend to be quite fragile. In these cases and in others such as laptops or e-readers for children or educational purposes, the companies do not need flexible or rollable displays but they do benefit from the added robustness that flexible substrates offer.

These trends lead to an overall market forecast by IDTechEx of USD 200 million dollars by 2022 for the display market alone, as described in the report "Barrier Films for Flexible Electronics 2012-2022" . In OLED displays in specific, almost 2.5 million square meters of barrier material will be utilised in the making of more robust and in some cases flexible displays.

Area of flexible barriers forecasted for