Printed and flexible sensors constitute the largest printed electronics market outside of electronic displays. Printed sensors span a diverse range of technologies and applications, ranging from image sensors to wearable electrodes.
IDTechEx forecasts that the market for fully printed sensors will reach $4.9 billion by 2032.
This growth is expected to occur even though the largest market (printed glucose test strips) is being displaced by continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems. Many new applications and technologies will drive the growth.
New Report on Printed and Flexible Sensors
IDTechEx’s new report “Printed and Flexible Sensors 2022-2032: Technologies, Players, Markets” outlines the current status and future application opportunities in nine categories of printed/flexible sensors.
Specifically, the report covers:
- Piezoresistive sensors
- Piezoelectric sensors
- Printed photodetectors
- Temperature sensors
- Strain sensors
- Capacitive touch sensors
- Gas sensors
- Biological sensors
- Flexible wearable electrodes
Each sensor category seeks to offer a distinctive value proposition over the incumbent technology, with distinct technological and commercial challenges on route to widespread adoption.
Despite this diversity, multiple factors are driving the adoption of many types of printed/flexible sensors. Most important is the increasing adoption of ‘Internet of Things (IoT)’ and ‘Industry 4.0’ since they will require extensive networks of often wirelessly connected low-cost and unobtrusive sensors.
Additionally, the thin-film form factor and conformality of printed/flexible sensors enable them to be incorporated within smaller devices. This gives designers greater freedom to differentiate their products and explore potential new uses.
Printed and flexible sensor technologies
Some of the most commercially promising printed and flexible sensor technologies covered in the report include:
Capacitive touch sensors. These sensors are widely used for transparent touch sensors such as smartphones and tablets. However, there is still extensive scope for innovation within capacitive touch in terms of the transparent conductive materials used, the ability to sense touch over large area displays, and alternative applications for capacitive sensing such as leak detection and interactive surfaces.
Piezoresistive force sensors. These sensors are widely used today in car occupancy sensors, musical instruments, industrial equipment, and some medical devices. While these markets are somewhat commoditized, the sector is innovating to access new, differentiated, higher-value applications. One example is 3D touch panels that can measure applied force as a function position, thus enabling the recognition of more complex HMI gestures than the incumbent capacitive touch panels. Suppliers are continuing to target phones, computer gaming, and automotive interiors.
Gas sensors.. This area is undergoing continued innovation, with emerging approaches utilizing functionalized carbon nanotubes and solution-processable semiconductors. Gas sensors are already used in many industrial contexts and are likely to be increasingly adopted as concern about air pollution grows.
One promising long-term application is the use of printed gas sensors to measure food degradation. The sensors could be directly printed onto food packaging.
Temperature sensors. These can be printed using either a composite ink with silicon nanoparticles or carbon nanotubes. Their main challenge is the low cost, lightweight, and ubiquity of very mature solutions such as thermistors and resistive temperature detectors.
Printed temperature sensors have the clearest value proposition in applications that require spatial resolution using a conformal array. For example, printed temperature sensors could be used to monitor wounds or skin complaints.
Monitoring batteries in electric vehicles is another highly promising application that is receiving increased interest. Printed temperature sensors are lightweight and could be easily integrated into pouch cells.
The report includes highly granular 10-year market forecasts by technology and application, expressed as both volume and revenue. Also included are multiple application examples, technological/commercial readiness assessments, and over 50 company profiles based on interviews with early-stage and established companies. Further details can be found, along with downloadable sample pages, at www.IDTechEx.com/flexsensors.
IDTechEx guides strategic business decisions through its Research, Subscription and Consultancy products, helping clients profit from emerging technologies. For more information, contact [email protected] or visit www.IDTechEx.com.