Printed electronics are in the growth phase and have demonstrated manufacturing on a mass scale at highly competitive prices. The need for reliable encapsulation technologies increases as the market evolves to cover diverse applications, which are sensitive to interferences, such as moisture. Core components of devices such as OLEDs and organic PVs are highly sensitive to moisture and oxygen. The reaction leads to substantial degradation of the quality of the components and also results in decreased performance and lifetime of the product. This ushers the need for high moisture barrier films.
OLEDs have garnered a very high interest from both the manufacturers and the consumers. There is a huge scope for OLEDs in thin and flexible displays as well as lighting. Appropriate encapsulation technologies are required to penetrate into various markets. This is one of the significant drivers for the development of encapsulation technologies.
To ensure long lifetime of flexible OLEDs and PVs, Water Vapor Transmission Rate (WVTR) of the order of 10-6 g/m2/day is required. As the products would be integrated into infrastructure, frequent replacement is not an option. Thus appropriate encapsulation is required to protect the electronic device. This is a key factor on which the adoption of organic devices will depend as the customers would want products with long lifetime. Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) technique is expected to emerge as the key fabrication technology for future barrier films. Multiple barriers appears to be the technology that enables high-barrier property, but flexible glass promises to be the alternative technology if production cost goes down.
High encapsulation is required for Organic PVs and flexible OLEDs for display and lighting. Consumer demand for these will drive the growth and research of encapsulation technologies. Emerging markets such as automotive would benefit from novel encapsulation technologies.
North America provides an attractive opportunity for printed electronics owing to the huge market for consumer electronic products and sensors. Major companies in this region are developing encapsulation technology including 3M, Corning (flexible glass) and GE.
Major developments from research organizations such as Fraunhofer, IMEC, and Holst Centre. Beneq, headquartered in Finland, is one of the key providers of ALD technology for depositing barrier films.
Major development of encapsulation technologies is initiated by companies headquartered in the APAC region, particularly in Japan and Korea. Companies such as Samsung and LG are seeking avenues to introduce flexible OLED displays in a variety of applications, which require reliable encapsulation technology. Tera-Barrier, a Singapore-based company has pioneered nanotechnology-based barrier film technology, which holds promise in providing high WVTR barrier performance
Cost is one of the key issues that hampers the adoption of any new technology. Companies face major hurdles in developing a manufacturing process compatible with a particular technology. Hence, the focus should be on developing complementing technologies with existing manufacturing process lines.