Flexible electronics will drive new trends in 2016 and beyond

January 18, 2016

The CES 2016 show is done and dusted, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t see more technology innovations as the year progresses. As experts in flexible electronics, we are naturally excited as to how our industry will change in 2016 and how advancements in flexible electronics will impact on other technologies such as wearable and mobile devices, automotive, packaging, healthcare and TV.

We asked a few members of our management team to share their predictions for 2016 and beyond.

Mike Banach, Technical Director at FlexEnable

Mike Banach - small‘In 2016 there will be a breakthrough in establishing scalable and tractable manufacturing for flexible electronics.’

Taking the constraints of glass and rigidity out of electronic devices inspires industrial designs where form factor no longer takes a backseat to function. This will lead to a further diversification of consumer electronic devices and provoke innovations in other sectors. At FlexEnable, we are experiencing this trend quite intimately as we continue to encounter growing demand for flexible displays of different shapes and sizes as well as a recent surge of interest in sensor arrays for medical and other diagnostic purposes.

The challenge is establishing manufacturing scale that can cope and thrive with such diversity. The simple low temperature manufacturing approach that we have pioneered at FlexEnable has several advantages to enabling tractable manufacturing. I believe this year we will make a big step in proving that with our manufacturing partners.

Simon Jones, Commercial Director at FlexEnable

Simon Jones - small“Wearable displays will spread beyond the wrist, inspiring new creative form factors and functions of wearable technology.”

We will start to see wearable products that go beyond the smart watch and the fitness tracker. Healthcare is one of the sectors where wearable technology can make a huge difference and its application can be enhanced by the integration of flexible displays and flexible sensors.

Fashion is another area where we will see an increased adoption of wearable displays and sensors. For example, a company called Shiftwear recently raised significant funding on Indiegogo for shoes containing flexible displays.

The need for flexible displays that conform to our bodies is even greater when clothing is concerned and the good news is that flexible electronics can help achieve this.

Paul Cain, Strategy Director at FlexEnable

Paul Cain - small“The ever-increasing overlap between consumer electronics and automotive will drive the need for more active surfaces in vehicles, particularly for shared and driverless cars.”

Increasingly, cars are becoming tablets with wheels – with high levels of connectivity, and larger displays and touch-surfaces. For example, the Tesla S has a 17” flat glass display – probably the largest display and touch surface in a car today.

Display and sensor technology, combined with connectivity is already beginning to change the way we use cars in our daily lives, through increased vehicle autonomy. In the coming years driverless cars will bring a step change to car utilisation (from 10% to 75% or more) and alter the paradigm for car ownership: many of us will no longer own a car – instead just call one up and it will arrive. If a driver no longer needs to own a car, or drive it, then that completely changes the experience of the “driver” whilst in the car, and presents significant opportunities for new technology.

Conformable and flexible displays and sensors will allow surfaces to be customised for the passenger and provide personalised and consistent dashboard or entertainment options, regardless of which car is used for the journey.

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