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Printed Electronics: High Value, High Touch

From life-saving medical devices and rapid COVID-19 tests, to dashboards and musical instruments, printed electronics are a high-value opportunity. To exploit the opportunity requires high-touch engineering and customer support. Contributor Pete Basiliere details the challenges.


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About Pete Basiliere

Pete Basiliere provides research-based insights on 3D printing and digital-printing hardware, software and materials, best practices, go-to-market strategies and technology trends. Pete has more than four decades of engineering, operations management and thought-leadership experience in the printing industry. His expertise ranges from “2D” letterpress, offset and digital printing to 3D printing hardware, software, materials and services. https://monadnockinsights.com


By Chris Lynn on Feb 15, 2021

Thanks Pete Basiliere for a useful update on the state of the PE market. 16 years ago, I wrote a similar article for the Seybold Report. It focused mainly on the RFID market, and concluded "The ability of the traditional printer to make fine marks with high accuracy on a moving web of film or paper will be uniquely valuable to the production of electronic products that are flexible, robust, durable and, above all, cheap enough to be disposable."

True, but the idea that ordinary commercial printers could add a PE specialty was clearly over-optimistic back then, and Pete is right to emphasize the substantial barriers to entry that remain today.


By William Ray on Feb 16, 2021

After fifteen years plus of PE experience I might be able to add a little to this discussion.

When we started down his route there was vary little that was "off the shelf" in terms of materials and expertise. This is still largely true today. We spent years and millions of dollars to develop our particular form of PE. Today we make batteries, lighting, security labels, and a host of other things that we make on screen presses and flexographic presses.

Along the way we learned hat organic PE is, largely, useless, fragile, expensive and has a lifetime on the order of a nano jiffy. OTOH we did build a unique technology that we own (given the, literally hundreds of patents that we generated) and that works.

Then we found out that end users did not under understand the value of PE until they saw the results that it gave them in the market place. They thought it was really neat and were willing to try it if but saw the price and often could not justify the risk.

So here we are. PE is actually cheap in the correct market, it is cleanly disposable / recyclable, and can be made by the mile on conventional direct impact presses that are very slightly modified. Yet we still need to have a strong R&D effort as we are years away from reaching ubiquity in terms of product types.

The take away is that if you want to be in his business you need deep pockets, patience and a strong urge to do R&D.

However, it has been a great ride so far and lots of fun -- at least for me! It's tough on bean counters, though.



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