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Printed electronics to take centre stage at LOPEC 2020

10th December 2019
Alex Lynn

LOPEC, the international exhibition and conference for the printed electronics industry showcases every aspect of printed electronics, from the theory and practice behind the technology to its business and application potential.

At a recent meeting, Armin Wittmann, Project Group Director Messe München, and Dr. Klaus Hecker, Managing Director of the OE-A (Organic and Printed Electronics Association) discussed the technology and provided an update on next year’s LOPEC, taking place March 24th to 26th, 2020 in Munich.

Printed electronics are conductive polymers and inks based on the combination of new materials with large area, high volume deposition and patterning techniques. Because of these materials and techniques, printed electronics can be – as the name says - printed onto various flexible substrates, in particular on to plastic films, but also on paper, glass or fabrics. All that at low cost to create extremely thin, flexible and transparent electronic components.

The technology is also often referred to as organic electronics, plastic electronics, flexible electronics, polymer electronics, large-area electronics or thin-film electronics – terms which all mean the same thing: a new way of adding electronics to a traditional, or entirely new, application.

Printed electronics: applications and products

According to Dr Hecker, consumer electronics is obviously a significant market for OLED Displays in products like smart phones and tablets but another huge market and growth driver is the automotive industry. From displays and touch surfaces seamlessly integrated into the interior to self-darkening windows to new lighting and heating concepts: printed electronics is playing an increasingly important role in the vehicles of the future, whether in electric or autonomous driving cars. At the moment Dr Hecker sees that 3D structural electronics proves to be one of the most important future trends in the automotive sector.

Also, the medical sector and the pharmaceutical, sports and textile industries are expanding their products and applications to include printed electronics. Ultra-thin sensors or microfluidic chips are opening up new applications. Another interesting development is building-integrated organic photovoltaics (OPV) which are gaining in importance. In the future, roofs, windows, facades and other building sections will contribute to the generation of solar power.

What can participants expect to find at LOPEC?

“One of LOPEC's biggest strengths is that it really gives participants the chance to find out about every single aspect of the printed electronics industry” said Armin Wittmann. “LOPEC covers the entire value chain, from research and development to mass production, including applications and business models.

“Participants can expect to see a wide variety of materials including substrates, conductors and encapsulation materials as well as manufacturing processes such as patterning techniques, vacuum processes, photolithography, solution coating as well as assembly and packaging technology.

Applications will of course also be on display, such as sensors, RFID, solar cells or smart textiles. The related service industry will be there with offers, specifically targeted at the industry, ranging from services for prototyping, R&D funding management or venture and equity capitalisation.” 

Many LOPEC exhibitors will be showing examples of real applications for printed electronics. The Innovation Showcase also allows visitors to see printed electronics up close. A range of fascinating prototypes and product innovations will be presented there. As with previous LOPEC exhibitions there will also be a live ‘Demo Line’ where the full production process of a smart object will be presented and explained.

Several OE-A members will take part in the Demo Line and will show by video, in posters and of course in live demonstration of production equipment how this smart object is made. The Demo Line is another unique service for the visitors and is only offered at LOPEC. 

Among the industry and technology leaders exhibiting at LOPEC 2020 are Coatema Coating Machinery, DuPont, Elantas Europe, Evonik Creavis, Fraunhofer, Henkel, NovaCentrix, VARTA Microbattery and VTT Technical Research Centre. 

From the UK, visitors can expect to see CPI, DuPont Teijin Films UK, Dycotec Materials, GEW (EC), HORIBA and RK PrintCoat.

According to Armin Wittmann, there were more than 160 exhibitors from 19 countries at LOPEC 2019. He expects to see a slight increase for the 2020 event. The number of participants last time was around 2700.

“LOPEC has shown consistent growth which has mirrored the positive development of the printed electronics industry,” said Dr Hecker. “In the latest business survey, conducted by us at the OE-A, our participants projected a sales revenue growth of three percent. This forecast, however, is significantly lower than the one made in the spring survey this year. A sales growth of nine percentage points was forecast for 2019. 

“It is not surprising that the organic and printed electronics industry is also feeling the effects of the uncertainties and the general slowdown in the global economy. But we expect healthy growth for both this and upcoming year. For 2020, the companies expect a further increase in turnover of five percent. This positive outlook is reflected in other indicators such as investments and development expenses.”

With more than around 200 conference presentations, the LOPEC Conference claims to be the world's leading communication platform for research, knowledge and solutions in the printed electronics industry. Many experts and scientists from around the world will speak at the LOPEC Conference. 

These include John Rogers, Professor at Northwestern University (US), who will give insights into the fabrication of flexible bioelectronics for the next generation of wearables; Dr. Alain Schumacher, Chief Technical Officer, IEE (LU), who will talk about the challenges and perspectives on printed electronics for mobility. Other confirmed speakers for LOPEC 2020, come from Henkel, Quad Industries, Schreiner IEE, Fraunhofer ENAS and many more.

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