The future of stretchable and conformal electronics 2019-2029

2nd January 2019
Alex Lynn

The report ‘Stretchable and Conformal Electronics 2019-2029’ from IDTechEx Research, aims to explain everything you need to know about stretchable electronics. It provides the a comprehensive and insightful view of this diverse emerging industry, discussing each of the different stretchable materials and components available or being developed today.

Furthermore, it references over 60 product types that may integrate stretchable electronics, covering the progress of more than 100 companies and 25 research institutes including first-hand primary research on 62 companies, and providing ten-year market forecasts segmented by more than 14 material/component areas.

This report includes a critical technology assessment for a vast array of emerging stretchable electronic materials and components. Prominent options include stretchable sensors and stretchable connectors (including conductive inks, yarns and cabling, stretchable PCBs and more).

More emerging options including actuators, logic and transistors, energy harvesting and energy storage (such as batteries, supercapacitors.). Forecasts are segmented by 14 different stretchable component types. The report also discusses drivers and product types around various end user markets, including applications in healthcare, automotive, industrial and consumer applications.

‘Stretchable and Conformal Electronics 2019-2029’ is the result of years of global primary research on stretchable electronics itself, but also on its constituent elements and target applications. For example, IDTechEx analysts have covered topics such as conductive inks, in-mold electronics, electronic textiles, flexible and stretchable printed circuit boards, wearable technologies, stretchable sensors, stretchable transparent conductive films, structural electronics and more.

In the past three years alone IDTechEx have met and interviewed at least 60 companies active in the value chain of stretchable electronics, attended more than 20 conferences and tradeshows across the world where stretchable electronic products were discussed and exhibited, and delivered multiple tailored consulting projects. In addition, the IDTechEx Show! is a biannual conference and tradeshow focused on electronics with new form factors. Having organising this event for the past decade, IDTechEx has stayed closely connected to the entire ecosystem, including all of the leading players as the industry has evolved.

Stretchable Electronics: enabling the future of electronics
According to IDTechEx, the electronic industry is in the midst of a major paradigm shift: novel form factors are emerging ranging from limited flexibility to ultra-elastic and conformable electronics. This transfiguration has been in the making for more than a decade now, but is only now beginning to make a substantial commercial impact. This is not an incremental shift along well-established industry lines. Instead, it seeks to create new functions, new applications, and new users. As such, this technology frontier currently only has vague figures-of-merit and limited insight on customer needs.

Many opponents have long argued that this entire class of emerging materials and devices is a classic case of technology-push: a solution looking for a problem. This view may have been justified in the early days, but IDTechEx now see this trend as an essential step towards the inevitable endgame of new electronics: structural electronics. This is a disruptive megatrend that will transform traditional electronics from being components-in-a-box into truly invisible electronics that are structurally integrated where needed. This is a major long-term theme that will lead to a root-and-branch change in the electronics industry including materials, components and the entire value chain. Stretchable and conformable electronics is giving shape to this megatrend. Indeed, it enables it.

Out of the lab and into the market
Stretchable Electronics is an umbrella term that conceals great diversity. It refers to a whole host of emerging electronic materials, components and devices that exhibit some degree of mechanical strain tolerance or ‘stretchability’. These include interconnects, sensors, actuators, functional films, batteries, logic and displays, each of which is covered in detail within the report. 

Therefore, the overall term covers technology options which span the entire technology readiness scale. Some stretchable electronic components are already entering various markets, whereas others remain at early proof-of concept stages. Whilst the overall theme remains, IDTechEx expects that the individual stories within the sector will fragment, with some becoming commercially successful and others remaining largely academic curiosities.

IDTechEx anticipate that in many cases the winners will emerge within the next three to five years. This is why companies now need to urgently establish a closer collaboration between their commercial and research units, and should follow a strategy of touching upon as many nascent application spaces as their bandwidth allows to garner feedback, offer customised solutions, and fine-tune their research direction. 

In this report IDTechEx provide a critical assessment of all the existing and emerging technologies. You will learn about the technology readiness levels, latest performance levels, unsolved technical challenges, late-stage or commercial prototypes and associated application targets. You will also learn about the emerging global business ecosystem pushing each technology.

Structural electronics is no longer just a solution looking for a problem. Indeed, it is finding commercial use in both niche applications in hard-to-find sectors as well as in high-volume visible products. It delivers strong value in multiple applications, at times as an enabling technology, whilst it remains an unessential or underperforming solution amongst many in others. The application space therefore also cannot be painted with a broad brush as it is diverse and fragmented. The success will be in the detail.

This report provides a detailed pipeline of applications. It covers both niche and mainstream use cases. It critically assesses the latest developments within each sector including latest commercial products, late-stage prototypes, market challenges, anticipated growth and so on.

What does this report provide?

  1. Critical review and appraisal of all the existing and emerging stretchable electronics materials and components including stretch sensors, stretchable ink-, yarn-, or wire-based interconnects, stretchable transparent conductive films, stretchable PCBs, energy harvesters, batteries, supercapacitors, encapsulates, substrates, and so on.
  2. Analysis of target markets including value proposition, market and technical challenges, real examples of latest products and prototypes, and market forecasts.
  3. Ten-year market forecasts segmented by end market (automotive, health care and medical, sports and fitness; consumer; automation), product type (robotics, skin patches, apparel and non-apparel electronic textiles), or component (resistive, capacitive, and dielectric elastomer stretch sensors; ink, yarn and wire-based interconnects; inks and transparent conductive films for inks; stretchable transistors, displays, actuators).
  4. Coverage and profiles of more than 60 companies based on primary research including in-person visits, interviews, tradeshow/conference interactions and so on.

To access the report, click here.

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