2012 Flex Conference Sees 20 Percent Surge in Attendance and 30 Percent Increase in Exhibits
Feb 16, 2012
A Disruptive Technology That Will Create, Change and Disturb Markets
The 2012 Flex Conference, sponsored by the FlexTech Alliance and held Feb 6-9, 2012 in Phoenix, Ariz., achieved new records on attendance and exhibiting companies, while maintaining a high-level of business and technical content. Collaboration was an especially strong theme echoed throughout the event, with ample opportunities to exchange ideas. This was the assessment of Michael Ciesinski, FlexTech Alliance’s CEO, who said, “An exceptional opening day of presentations set the message for the conference, which is that flexible, printed electronics is moving from the lab to prototypes to production. Our speakers declared it and our exhibitors confirmed it.”
Dr. Jennifer Ricklin, chief technologist at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the opening speaker of the 2012 FlexTech Alliance Flexible Electronics & Displays Conference & Exhibition, predicted that flexible, printed electronics will usher in the “Organic Age”, the coming together of nanotechnology, biology and information technologies. Dr. Ricklin stated, “Flex electronics is a revolution, following in line with previous electronics industry innovations. It is a disruptive technology that will create, change and disturb markets.”
The Flex Conference, now completing its 11th year, has experienced steady growth in the number of attendees and exhibitors, as well as the diversity of products and technology being presented. This year’s conference registered 565 attendees, up 20% over 2011, and 57 exhibitors, a 30% increase that filled the exhibit hall to capacity.
Several new topics were added to the 2012 Flex Conference agenda to reflect the emergence of the industry. “The Path to Commercial Products” and “Pilot Production & Beyond” sessions reinforced the concept that collaboration is required between materials and equipment suppliers as well as system integrators to bring products to market. “Evolving Equipment and New Capabilities” and “Metrology and Standards” underpinned the fact that production requirements now have to be considered. Finally, the new “Medical” session, along with “Photovoltaics” and “Novel Devices” discussed applications where flexible electronics will be a game-changer.
Results of the FlexTech Alliance R&D program were visible throughout the presentations and in the exhibit hall. Corning Inc. explained the applications and benefits of flexible glass. Akron Polymer Systems, Cambridge NanoTech, Henkel, New Way Air Bearings, and Solarmer Energy all presented their latest achievements. Western Michigan University revealed a new materials registry program initiated with FlexTech Alliance support and demonstrated the registry in the FlexTech Alliance booth. Clemson University also had a hands-on demonstration in the exhibit hall, producing printed electronic components on site.
The high-caliber keynote speakers elaborated on the significance of new developments and provided insights into where the industry is going. Examples include:
- Steven Abramson, president and CEO of UDC, explained that organic light emitting diodes (OLEDS) are a common demonstration of organic electronics, with displays and lighting the most visual applications. OLED displays will challenge the liquid crystal display supremacy (LCD) because they have fewer parts, a lower bill of materials, and a superior image.
- James Buntaine, CTO of Konarka presented working examples of off-grid applications of flexible organic photovoltaics (PV) such as bus stations in San Francisco and green houses in the Middle East. The large off-grid population opens new markets for this technology, harvesting energy from earth abundant materials.
- Michael McCreary, deputy CTO of E Ink noted that in many respects, flexible, printed electronics products will be enabled by advancements in materials technology. A primary example is the e-reader, which has become a huge market based on electronic ink developed and commercialized by E Ink. Future advances will include a color e-reader, recently launched in China, large area signage, and stretchable substrates.
- The printing industry is increasingly engaged with the electronics industry and this merger of capabilities was explained by John McCooey of DuPont and Kevin Manes of Mark Andy. Both noted that there are multiple printing mechanisms that will print electronic circuitry, with gravure and flexography as the most likely contenders.
FlexTech will continue its advancement of the flexible, printed electronics industry by hosting a workshop “The Road to Flexible, Wearable Electronics for Biometrics and Medicine” on April 10-11, 2012 in San Jose, CA. For details visit www.flextech.org