Conductive inks a US$ 580 million opportunity by 2028

Emerging conductive inks and pastes markets to grow


A new report by IDTechEx Research, ‘Conductive Ink Markets 2018-2028: Forecasts, Technologies, Players,’ provides a view of the conductive inks and pastes market, giving detailed 10-year market forecasts segmented by application and material type. The market forecasts are given in tonnage and value at the ink level. All together, IDTechEx Research forecast that non-core and emerging markets will grow to become a US$ 580 million market opportunity by 2028.

This report is based on years of research. In the past five years alone, IDTechEx analysts have interviewed more than 100 industry players, visited numerous users and suppliers across the world, attended more than 45 relevant conferences and exhibitions globally, and worked with many industry players to help them with their strategy towards this market. Prior to this, they have played an active role in commercializing conductive pastes, particularly in the photovoltaic industry.

The complete global picture with application granularity

This IDTechEx Research report includes critical reviews of all the competing conductive inks and paste technologies including firing-types pastes, PTFs, laser-cut or photo-patterned pastes, nanoparticles, stretchable inks, in-mold inks, copper, copper and or silver alloys, nanocarbon, and more. Here, the latest performance levels or progress are outlined along with technology challenges, key suppliers, existing and emerging target market, and forecasts where appropriate. There is also a special chapter on silver nanoparticle, as IDTechEx forecast 2018 to be a pivotal year for the success of this technology.

Also provided are a detailed assessment of more than 27 application sectors. Here, the market needs an requirements are analyzed and business dynamics, market leadership and technology change trends, competing solutions, latest product and prototype launches, key players and market forecasts in tonnes and value are all discussed.

The following existing and emerging sectors are covered: photovoltaics, conformal on-chip EMI shielding, sintered die attach paste (nano), eTextile, wearable inks, IME inks (automotive and home appliance), touch screen edge electronics, ITO replacement (hybrid, direct printing, etc), automotive (interior, exterior, seat heaters, occupancy sensors), 3D conformal antennas, 3D printed electronics, RFID (UHF and HF), OLED lighting and large-area LEDs, conductive pens, PCB printing (professional and hobbyist), eReaders, large-area heaters (battery, plant, seat, etc), digitizers, printed logic and memory, MLCC, sensors (piezoresistive, capacitive and glucose), and so on.

Conductive Ink Markets 2018-2028: Forecasts, Technologies, Players also covers more than 130 companies. For most, insights are provided based on primary intelligence obtained through interviews, visits, conference exhibition interactions, personal communications, and so on. More than 50 are full interview-based company profiles including a detailed SWOT analyst and IDTechEx Index.

Recent and emerging trends

The conductive ink industry had a great year last year largely thanks to the record boom year in the photovoltaic industry driven by demand in China. This rising tide lifted everyone regardless of their market share standings. Indeed, many in the value chain have been working at or near full capacity to service this rising demand.

The industry is however still moving ahead with its diversification drive. Here, the industry seeks to find the next big thing, hoping to lessen its over-reliance on the photovoltaic industry and other mature industries in which strong competitive pressures persist.

To this end, the suppliers had been developing as broad a product portfolio as possible seeking to plant their flags in nascent high-potential markets. This process is now in full swing with several markets transitioning towards commercial fruition this year.

The touch screen edge electrode market continues to be shaped by the perennial trend to narrow the bezel. This trend has already led to the introduction of photo-patterned and laser-cut pastes. The emphasis however has largely shifted onto cost, pushing supplier to aggressively slash prices to keep market share, to deter new ink entrants, and to fight off sputtering.

Stretchable inks have been in active commercialization mode for several. In this time, the number of suppliers globally has multiplied, eroding technical and price differentiation but also helping accelerate market creation. The industry has already launched and sold products and most suppliers expect further customer qualification this year.

In-mold electronics (IME) is transitioning towards commercial orders too. Conductive ink suppliers multiplied in the past few years, mirroring the developments on the stretchable ink front. The commercial emphasis shifted from seeding the market and demonstrating prototypes to proving volume production and reliability as well as to resolving potential IP issues.

Sprayed on-chip conformal EMI shielding coatings is a hot area. Sputtered coatings have already been adopted by leading players, but now paste companies actively seek to provide a compelling alternative that is based on non-vacuum, low-CapEx, large-area and high-throughput spraying process. The engagement with small- to mid-sized device makers, particularly in China, is highly active but the big question this year is whether a leading brand will qualify the technology.

Highly thermally conductive die attach pastes are in favor. This the rise of electric, connected and or autonomous vehicles creates more demand for high power and high temperature electronics. A promising trend is now to use nano or hybrid silver fillers to reduce the sintering temperature and eliminate the need for external pressure. This technology is on the cusp of major success, and barring last minutes surprises, is likely to be adopted by electric vehicle producers this year.

The installed base of industrial aerosol machines is expanding, opening the door further to the sales of qualified inks in 3D antenna printing. Directly printed metal mesh has witnessed accelerated technological progress, overcoming its limitation to achieve sub 5um line widths. Indeed, it is already in small scale commercial production, but there is some way to go before it can become a leading market. Hybrid metal mesh continues with its stop-start progress, expanding into use cases such as transparent antennas for consumer electronics

The installed base of hobbyist-level desktop PCB printers has expanded but utilization – thus material consumption – is low. The sales of final (vs. beta) version of professional multilayer printers has also started but these are still in an early phase of market diffusion. Print-seed-and-then-plate approach in the PCB industry is also largely on hold due to the lack of a clear cost or performance benefit compared to incumbent processes. However, Cu inks printed PI substrates are actively being pushed for the FPCB applications. This approach may offer a cost advantage when surface coverage is low (<20%).

Cu is also making progress for RFID antenna printing although new suppliers still need to demonstrate production beyond lab scale. Multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCC) also continue to be sizable industry with sales into the trillions of units, creating a significant market for screen printed Cu (and Ni) powders. The printed digitizer market for consumer electronics did not grow as previously anticipated, however printed large area digitizers, often based on Cu, are finding use in large-area interactive whiteboards.

3D printed electronics (3DPE) will remain an innovation opportunity front for low-temperature inks compatible with a variety of substrates, but progress will be subdued in sales of dedicated 3DPE printers. Printed large-area piezoresistive, capacitive and biosensors are set to become one of the largest constituents of the greater printed electronics industry. Despite technology improvements, printed transistor and memory will remain in search of applications. eReaders will accelerate transition towards large wall-sized displays, creating new demand for inks. Large-area LED arrays made with printing will slowly find their way into the market although competition from FPCB remains. Thin film non-Si photovoltaic will likely see the commercial adoption of silver nanoparticles.

There are numerous other applications that are being developed for conductive paste which are considered in the report in detail. Examples include heating, battery pack and plant heaters, frequency-selective windows, and many more.

All together IDTechEx Research forecast that non-core and emerging markets will grow to become a US$ 580 million market opportunity by 2028. This is shown below. Note that here volume applications like touch screen edge electrodes, automotive (exterior), photovoltaics, MLCC and so on are excluded.


In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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