Flexible electronics, popularly known as flex circuits, have created a vibrant market since the past few years. They find a wide range of applications in healthcare and medical, wearable electronics, automotive, mobile devices, consumer electronics, military and defence, and biometrics, and continue to transform the way the electronics are being used and made conventionally. The global market of flexible electronics, though currently in its developing stage, is predicted to gain momentum in the near future and grow at a double digit CAGR over the forecast period 2014-2020.
In addition to offering transformational advantages in terms of product shape, weight, and durability, flex circuits also provide 3D configurations to product designs. Flex circuits have also held significant impact on allied industries, including wearable electronics, smart medical devices, cell phones, connectors, and IoT.
Global Flexible Electronics Market: Key Drivers
- Superiority of Compact, Flexible Devices
As consumer devices are turning more compact retaining their smarter and more integrated functioning, the demand for flex circuits is anticipated to escalate. Flex circuits are printed on ultra-thin substrates such as plastic, which impart them the foldable, rollable, and bendable characteristics without affecting the functionality.
- Preference to Light Weight, Portable Devices
Consumers are increasingly preferring light weight devices over conventional ones, for the convenience of portability. Flexible electronics are formed on Kapton or similar materials, which carry more than 70% of their weight and offer immense flexibility. This is another key property that pushes the demand for flex circuits in the market.
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- Higher Energy Efficiency
Devices based on the flexible electronics technology consume lesser energy compared to conventional electronic devices, and generate lesser heat while being used. This property is crucial in popularising flex circuits in the market.
- Growing Use of Consumer Electronic Devices
Consumers are increasingly using devices such as smartphones, smart glasses, smart watches, and e-book or newspapers, which is propelling the demand for flexible electronics.
However, the complexity of circuit assembly and higher costs are foreseen to be the biggest barriers to the mass adoption of flex circuits.
Global Flexible Electronics Market: Segmentation
FMI’s research on the global flexible electronics market provides a six-year forecast, segmenting the market on the basis of component, application, structure of circuit, and geography.
Based on the component used in flexible electronic devices, the market is segmented as flexible displays, flexible batteries, flexible sensors, and flexible memory.
On the basis of application, the market is categorised into consumer electronics, automotive industry, defence and aerospace, sensing, healthcare and medical, and energy and power industry. The consumer electronics segment is expected to be the largest revenue generator for flexible electronics market.
According to the circuit structure used in flexible electronics, the market is segmented into single-sided and double-sided.
The geographical segmentation analyses the flexible electronics market into seven key regions, including North America, Latin America, Japan, Asia Pacific, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Middle East and Africa. Currently, North America forms a strong market for flex circuits, led by the U.S., followed by Canada and Mexico. However, Asia Pacific represents a developing market for flexible electronics, with prominent growth in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Philippines.
Current and Upcoming Application Trends
- Flex circuits have been serving novel applications in medical and healthcare sector since the past few years. Flexible organic electronics can be used in organ implants in the near future, owing to their high compatibility with major biological systems.
- Bendable smartphones are predicted to be the future of smartphone industry.
- Research on the applications of flexible electronics in building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) is in progress, and is anticipated to the drive the market over the forecast period.
- The applications of flexible electronics in manufacturing flexible, non-breakable, waterproof computing displays is expected to attract major revenue opportunities in the near future.
- Research has indicated that the flexible electronics technology is highly suitable for signage boards. Moreover, the technology can be used to incorporate multiple functions in a single device such as microphones, speakers, and batteries.
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Key Players: Flexible Electronics Market
The dominant players in the global flexible electronics market include LG Corporation, Samsung Electronics, PARC, Inc., Cymbet Corporation, and Solar Frontier.
Apple and its iPhone screen supplier LG Electronics might launch the arrival of a new, ultrathin, low-power iPhone with flexible OLED screen, somewhere between 2017 and 2018. However, LG has already launched a smartphone that can be bent to a certain degree – G Flex2, in 2015. Recently in 2016, Samsung has filed two patents with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), for an "artificial muscle" system, allowing smartphones to bend in a variety of shapes without getting damaged.
Companies are increasingly investing in R&D in order to strengthen their market positions, and FMI’s market research predicts that the competitive landscape will witness the inflow of profitable revenue generation opportunities, as the technology advances.
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