Defining Flexible Electronics

 In Aerospace, Automotive, Blog, Complex Interface Assemblies, Connectors & Harness Assemblies, Consumer, Design to manufacture, e-Waste, eWaste, eWaste, Haptic Technology, Healthcare, iFlex™ Flexible Circuits, In2tec News, Membranes, Metalwork & Enclosures, Military, Plastic Moulding Services, Printed Circuit Board Assemblies, Reuse, Rubber Keymats, Safety, Sustainability, Wearable Technology

Flexible electronics is still considered by some to be a relatively new technology and is also much broader in its scope than the current general market understanding. It is the fastest growing technology, partly due to it permitting solutions and product designs that older generation electronics cannot.

Flexible electronics is also one of the key enablers of 5G, a market that is expected to reach over $720 billion by 2030 thanks to large scale roll-out of infrastructures and rapid adoption of 5G devices and services. 5G is set not only accelerate the growth and expansion of telecoms along with digital communication but is set to redefine and accelerate growth across multiple industries, and flexible electronics will make that possible.

Today, many companies already turn to flexible electronics in order to gain a competitive edge, or to provide the solutions to complex design and fit problems; for it enables smaller, thinner, contoured, flexible, formable, lightweight product designs, and provides a greater level of sustainability.

Current Definitions

Despite the increasing application of flexible electronics, the way in which this technology is defined today simply does not do justice to the significant opportunities you gain in both product functionality, design, look and feel.

Wikipedia defines flexible electronics as: “Flexible electronics, also known as flex circuits, is a technology for assembling electronic circuits by mounting components on flexible substrates, such as polyimide, PEEK (Polyether ether ketone) or transparent conductive polyester film. Additionally, flex circuits can be screen printed silver circuits on polyester.  Flexible electronic assemblies may be manufactured using identical components as those used for rigid printed circuit boards, allowing the board to conform to the desired shape, or to flex during its use. An alternative approach to flexible electronics suggests various etching techniques to thin down the traditional silicon substrate to few tens of micrometres to gain reasonable flexibility, referred to as flexible silicon”.

Although the basic principles are correct, this Wikipedia definition omits significantly expanding areas of flexible electronics due to its focus on circuitry and plastic or polyester substrates. Flexible electronics is not necessarily just circuits, as demonstrated by products such as flexible displays and sensors. Substrates for flexible electronic circuits can be far more diverse than just plastic or polyester; the circuit can be woven from electronic textiles, and organic material including human skin can be used. With many aspects not captured, it is merely an outdated description referencing a small part of what flexible electronic circuits are, or were considered to be historically.

Another example is from IDTechEx, a leading emerging technology independent market research firm, who state: “Printed, Flexible and Organic Electronics is one of the fastest-growing technologies in the world. It is of vital interest to industries as diverse as consumer goods, healthcare, mobility, electronics, media, and architecture. The sector comprises of a diverse range of enabling technologies at different stages of commercialization”. This definition has been broadened to include “a diverse range of enabling technologies”.

Whilst broader technology examples are omitted, they report that flexible electronics is a fast-growing technology, and forecast that the market for printed electronics, including organics, inorganics and composites will rise from $31.7 billion in 2018 to $77.3 billion in 2029.

Many reports and articles can be found as to what flexible electronics is, but most often they lack critical definition and explanation as to the endless opportunities this technology offers.

Leaders in Flexible Electronics

In2tec has worked in flexible electronics for over 25 years, roughly since the technology has existed. We are regarded as specialists in this field and have developed unique solutions to solve some of the most challenging electronics issues. We use our technology to save weight, space, and cost for companies across incredibly varied industries; and help customers to comply with stringent specifications in automotive, aerospace, medical, wearables, banking and cash security, consumer electronics, defence, and manufacturing.

As leaders in the development of innovative and emerging technology, we are in the ideal position to help you to gain competitive advantage via the incorporation of flexible electronics. Get in touch today to see how we can help you to accelerate your product ideas.

For a confidential discussion with one of our technology specialists please phone or email us:

T: + 44 (0) 1536 419200 (normal office hours 8.30am-5.00pm Mon-Thurs; 8.30am-2.30pm Fri)

E: enquiries@in2tec.com

www.in2tec.com

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