Investment in Printed Electronics Slows

There has been a lot of interest in printed electronics, with plenty of marketing hype. The hype is beginning to fade, which may bode well for the market.

Market analysts are somewhat unsure whether the preceding sentence should read “which may bode well for the market” or “which should bode well for the market.” A study from Lux Research released this week said the industry is still getting plenty of venture funding, with $626 million in 2011.

However, that marks the second straight year that funding levels have declined. Venture capital rose to $990 million in 2007, then slumped during the recession before nearly reaching $990 million again. Two straight years of declining investment may be a negative sign.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done for an early stage technology,” said Anthony Vicari, who wrote the report. “For some companies, it may be more difficult to find funding, since some investors may be disillusioned with this industry.

Going forward, the opportunities for investors may be limited to “islands of opportunity.” That’s because funding levels were high for a few years when investors may have been in the irrational exuberance phase. One bright spot for IPC members is that areas they’re involved in like sensors, deposition equipment and opaque inks have seen less decline in investment levels.

The question for many is whether venture capitalists have already invested enough to set the stage for expanded use. Some segments of the vast printed electronics field, like organic LEDs and RFID chips, are already seeing solid growth. In other product types, technology still has a ways to go.

“It may not be ready for prime time, but it’s close,” Vicari said. IPC’s standards and guidelines in this area will help this field as it evolves. However it evolves.

At IPC APEX EXPO, February 19–21, 2013, printed electronics will be addressed in professional development courses, technical conference, poster and BUZZ sessions, and standards development committee meetings.

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