Home / Semiconductors / Printed and Flexible Sensors 2015-2025: Technologies, Players, Forecasts

Printed and Flexible Sensors 2015-2025: Technologies, Players, Forecasts

Published: Feb 2015 | No Of Pages: 241 | Published By: IDTechEx
Sensors are playing an increasingly important role in printed electronics. While the biggest market is currently glucose sensors (for the treatment of diabetes), it is also highly commoditized. However, a new generation of printed sensors is now emerging from R&D and the range of applications is vast. There are many types of sensors and therefore many addressable markets. IDTechEx forecasts the market for fully printed sensors will be over $8 billion by 2025.
Printing is not a new technique in the sensor industry. In fact, some types of sensors have always been printed.
For example, there are already various types of sensors partially manufactured by screen printing (also known as a "thick film" process). In such devices, the transducer is a printed layer of either a polymeric or ceramic material. This technology has been used in the sensor industry for many years.
Progress in printed electronics now enables more sensors to be fully printed. Since sensors have a much simpler structure than displays or logic circuits, the manufacturing learning curve is therefore less steep compared to many other printed electronics applications. In most cases, these new printed sensors can be made on plastic substrates, offering the advantages of mechanical flexibility, thinness and light weight.
This report covers the following categories of printed sensors: 
  • Biosensors 
  • Capacitive sensors 
  • Piezoresistive sensors 
  • Piezoelectric sensors 
  • Photodetectors 
  • Temperature sensors 
  • Humidity sensors 
  • Gas sensors
Established and emerging markets
Printed disposable blood glucose sensors currently generate $6 billion of revenue annually. These sensors are used by diabetics as a self-diagnosis tool. The technology is well-established but the market is now commoditized and in low-growth mode. However, other types of printed biosensors are emerging, targeting medical or fitness applications.
Some printed and flexible sensors such as photodetectors, temperature sensors or gas sensors are transitioning from R&D to mass production. These market segments are set to grow fast over the next 10 years.
Printed humidity sensors will have the highest growth rate. However, this can be explained by the fact that it is starting from a low base. The market size (in terms of revenue) will actually be much smaller compared to other segments.
Overall, IDTechEx forecasts that fully printed sensors will be worth more than $8 billion by 2025. 
The market data in the report are at the sensor module level, thereby avoiding the common issue of including other components and services (system integration) in the revenue forecasts.
1.1. Sensors in the printed electronics industry 
1.2. How printing enables flexibility 
1.3. Different stages of commercialization 
1.4. Market size and growth rates 
2.1. Scope and definitions 
2.1.1. What is a sensor? 
2.1.2. What is a fully printed sensor? 
2.2. Market size for fully printed sensors 
2.2.1. Revenue forecast (in USD) 
2.2.2. CAGR per sensor type 
2.2.3. Printed area, per sensor type 
2.3. Biosensors 
2.4. Capacitive sensors 
2.5. Piezoresistive sensors 
2.6. Piezoelectric sensors 
2.7. Photodetectors 
2.7.1. Printed organic photodetectors 
2.7.2. Organic X-ray sensors 
2.7.3. Hybrid CMOS image sensors 
2.8. Temperature sensors 
2.9. Humidity sensors 
2.10. Gas sensors 
3.1. Screen-printed electrodes 
3.2. Glucose test strips 
3.2.1. Screen printing vs. sputtering 
3.2.2. Technical challenges
 3.2.3. Competing technologies 
3.2.4. A multi-billion dollar market, but low growth 
3.3. Emerging applications of printed biosensors 
3.3.1. Wearable patches by Electrozyme 
3.3.2. Cholesterol sensor 
3.3.3. Tuberculosis testing 
3.3.4. Drug screening 
3.3.5. Breath sensing 
3.3.6. Enhancements with nanomaterials 
4.1. Same structure, different materials available 
4.2. Key players 
4.3. Touch sensors for touchscreens 
4.4. Formable capacitive switches 
4.4.1. A case study: the Ford Fusion 
4.4.2. Integration with Injection Moulding 
4.4.3. 3D shaped sensors based on PEDOT 
4.5. Capacitive pressure sensing 
4.6. Fluid level sensor 
4.7. Fingerprint sensors: will they be printed? 
5.1. Thick film in pressure sensors 
5.1.1. Ceramic vs. other common types of pressure sensors 
5.1.2. Construction of a ceramic pressure sensor 
5.2. Fully printed piezoresistive force sensors 
5.2.1. Sensor construction 
5.3. Key players 
5.4. Applications and markets 
5.4.2. Consumer electronics 
5.4.3. Automotive 
5.4.4. Medical 
5.4.5. Musical instruments 
5.4.6. Strain and bend sensors 
5.5. New technologies in piezoresistive sensors 
5.5.1. Quantum tunnelling composite (QTC) 
5.5.2. Interpolation for large area sensing 
5.5.3. Piezoresistive textile 
5.5.4. Artificial skin made with gold nanoparticles 
6.1. Key players 
6.2. Printed PZT (inorganic) 
6.2.2. Temperature requirements 
6.2.3. Inkjet printing technology from Ricoh 
6.3. Piezoelectric polymers 
6.3.2. Material suppliers 
6.3.3. Sensor arrays for novel user interfaces 
6.3.4. Heat sensing with piezoelectric polymers 
6.4. Printed amino acids 
7.1. Reasons to replace silicon 
7.2. Key players 
7.3. Device structure 
7.3.2. Screen-printing 
7.3.3. Slot die coating 
7.4. Organic photodetectors (OPD) 
7.4.1. Enabling new form factors for optical sensors 
7.4.2. ISORG building a production line for organic photodetectors 
7.4.3. OLED and OPD device for pulse oximetry (UC Berkeley) 
7.4.4. Academic research: photodetectors on textile 
7.5. Hybrid CMOS image sensors 
7.5.1. Organic semiconductors 
7.5.2. Quantum dots 
7.6. Flexible X-ray sensors 
7.6.1. The role of photodiodes in X-ray sensors 
7.6.2. NikkoIA develops organic imaging technology for X-rays sensors 
7.6.3. Demonstration from the Flexible Display Center (Arizona State University) 
7.6.4. Collaboration between ISORG and Plastic Logic demonstrates a flexible image sensor 
7.6.5. Collaboration between Imec, Holst Centre, and Philips Research 
8.1. Key players 
8.2. Inks compatible with plastic substrates 
8.2.1. PST Sensors: Silicon nanoparticles ink 
8.2.2. Research at PARC (Xerox) 
8.2.3. Organic heat sensor 
8.3. Applications 
8.3.1. Electronic tags as a replacement for time-temperature indicators 
8.3.2. First proof-of-concept prototype of an integrated printed electronic tag 
8.3.3. Wearable temperature monitors 
8.3.4. Exploring new applications 
8.4. Wireless temperature sensor made with carbon nanotubes 
9.1. Principles of thick film humidity sensors 
9.1.1. Porous ceramics humidity sensors 
9.1.2. Polymeric humidity sensors 
9.2. Key players 
9.3. Printed wireless humidity sensors 
9.3.1. Western Michigan University 
9.3.2. Application to building monitoring 
9.3.3. Invisense wins grant to develop new product 
9.4. Integration of humidity and temperature sensors 
9.4.1. PST Sensors 
9.4.2. Brewer Science: ultrafast response with carbon nanotubes 
10.1. Different types of gas sensors, not all can be printed 
10.1.1. Pellistors 
10.1.2. Infrared 
10.1.3. Electrochemical 
10.1.4. Chemiresistors 
10.1.5. Electronic nose (e-nose) 
10.2. Key players in printed gas sensors 
10.3. All-printed gas sensors with solid electrolytes 
10.3.1. SPEC sensor 
10.3.2. Solidsense 
10.4. Latest innovations 
10.4.1. Aerosol jet printing 
10.4.2. Inkjet Printing 
10.4.3. New electronic nose device with inkjet-printed semiconductor 
10.4.4. Research on acetone breath analysis 
11.1. An index categorising over 80 companies by sensor type and geography 
11.2. Detailed company profiles 
11.2.1. Arizona State University (ASU), USA 
11.2.2. BeBop Sensors 
11.2.3. DropSens, Spain 
11.2.4. Electrozyme, USA 
11.2.5. GSI Technologies, USA 
11.2.6. Interlink Electronics, USA 
11.2.7. ISORG, France 
11.2.8. KWJ Engineering, USA 
11.2.9. Meggitt A/S, Denmark 
11.2.10. NikkoIA SAS, France 
11.2.11. Peratech, UK 
11.2.12. Piezotech (Arkema group), France 
11.2.13. Plastic Electronic GmbH, Austria 
11.2.14. PolyIC, Germany 
11.2.15. PST Sensors, South Africa 
11.2.16. Sensitronics, USA 
11.2.17. Synkera Technologies, USA 
11.2.18. Tactonic Technologies, USA 
11.2.19. Tekscan, USA 
11.2.20. Temptime, USA 
11.2.21. Thin Film Electronics, Norway 
11.2.22. T-Ink, USA 
11.2.23. Vista Medical, Canada 
3.1. Range of ink for printed biosensors from DuPont 
3.2. Some of the most pressing technical challenges for printed glucose test strips 
4.1. Companies involved in printed capacitive sensors 
5.1. The key players in printed piezoresistive force sensors 
5.2. Comparison of piezoresistive force sensors versus capacitive touch sensors 
6.1. The key players in printed piezoelectric sensors 
6.2. Main specifications of PiezoPaint (preliminary data) 
7.1. Which companies are developing printed photodetectors 
8.2. Key players in printed temperature sensors 
9.1. Key players in fully printed humidity sensors 
10.1. Key players in printed gas sensors - companies and associated technologies 
11.1. Listing of over 80 companies involved in printed sensors 
1.1. How printed electronics enable flexible devices 
1.2. Two types of printable materials 
1.3. Market forecast for printed sensors to 2025 (in $ million) 
1.4. Market for printed sensors in 2015, 2020, 2025 (excl. glucose strips) 
1.5. Bubble chart showing market sizes and CAGR 
2.1. Multiple definitions of a sensor 
2.2. Market forecast for fully printed sensors to 2025 (in $ million) 
2.3. Market forecast for printed sensors, excluding glucose test strips 
2.4. Compound annual growth rate between 2015-2025 
2.5. Relative market size in 2020 
2.6. Printed areas, excluding glucose test strips 
2.7. Market for printed biosensors ($ million) 
2.8. Capacitive touchscreen sensors ($ million) 
2.9. Market for printed capacitive sensors ($ million) 
2.10. Market for printed piezoresistive sensors ($ million) 
2.11. Market for printed piezoelectric sensors ($million) 
2.12. Market for printed photodetectors ($million) 
2.13. Market for organic X-ray image sensors ($million) 
2.14. Market for hybrid CMOS image sensors ($ million) 
2.15. Market for printed temperature sensors ($million) 
2.16. Market for printed humidity sensors ($million) 
2.17. Market for printed gas sensors ($million) 
3.1. Screen printed electrode (SPE) from DropSens 
3.2. Example of a reader measuring the glucose level from a test strip. 
3.3. Glucose meter for iPhone. The iBGStar was developed by AgaMatrix and commercialised exclusively by Sanofi in 2012. 
3.4. No generic design: test strips vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. 
3.5. Advantages of printing vs. sputtering on a scale of 1 to 5 (higher is better). 
3.6. Evolution of sample volume needed 
3.7. Glucose sensing contact lens 
3.8. Two scenarios for the biosensors market ($ million) 
3.9. Various types of electrochemical measurement techniques 
3.10. Wearable device prototype, showing the disposable sensor patch 
3.11. Sensor fabrication is based on screen printing 
3.12. Smart Integrated Miniaturised Sensor (SIMS) 
3.13. DRUGSENSOR for drug screening 
3.14. Comparison between unmodified and CNT coated SPE. 
3.15. The Omega 3 system, consisting of a reader and a microfluidic cartridge. 
3.16. Nanostructured copper 
4.1. Metal mesh printed using high precision screen printing on PET substrates 
4.2. Direct Dry printing of carbon nanotubes 
4.3. The T-Ink overhead console 
4.4. Side by side comparison between the standard equipment and the new one 
4.5. Decorative and conductive inks are printed onto formable films 
4.6. An example of integration by PolyIC 
4.7. The touch sensor as the main interface of a car centre stack 
4.8. Demonstrator from Heraeus 
4.9. Demonstrator from Agfa 
4.10. An array for pressure mapping 
4.11. Storeskin is a concept by Plastic Electronic GmbH 
4.12. Fluid level sensor 
5.1. Comparison between thin film, thick film piezoresistive and silicon piezoresistive pressure sensors 
5.2. Construction of a thick film pressure sensor. 
5.3. Principles of piezoresistive sensors (force sensing resistors) 
5.4. Two types of device construction 
5.5. Printed piezoresistive force sensor construction 
5.6. Force sensor construction variant 
5.7. Common applications of printed piezoresistive sensors 
5.8. Peratech's QTC material inside a 5-way input device (Navikeys) from Samsung Electromechanics (2010). 
5.9. Thin and lightweight keyboard for tablets 
5.10. A look at the keyboard construction 
5.11. Possible locations of various force sensors in a car 
5.12. Large area piezoresistive sensor array demonstrated at Printed Electronics USA 2014 
5.13. Strain and bend sensor 
5.14. Artist view and actual microscope image of the QTC material. 
5.15. Tactonic Technologies extra-large touchpad 
5.16. Tactonic's customizable sensor design 
6.1. Ulthera skin imaging device in use. 
6.2. Evolution in screen printing of piezoelectric materials 
6.3. Magnified photograph of the PZT sample 
6.4. "Coffee stain effect" in ink jet printing 
6.5. Synthesis of technologies to achieve accurate printing 
6.6. Piezoelectric response of screen printed PVDF-TrFE on PEN substrate 
6.7. Solvene can be printed or spin coated 
6.8. Average transmittance (visible range between 400 nm and 700 nm), measured on 25-m thick film 
6.9. PyzoFlex, a pressure-sensing input device. 
6.10. PyzoFlex sensor array overlaid on a LCD screen. 
6.11. Flexsense prototype by Microsoft Research 
6.12. Schematic showing the printed polymer sensor connected to an organic transistor. 
6.13. Heat sensor based on PVDF-TrFe 
6.14. Heat sensor prototype 
6.15. Schematic of the amino acid film on a flat substrate 
6.16. Fabrication of the prototype sensor array 
6.17. Pressure sensing floor mat (80cm x 80cm) 
6.18. Change of capacitance with an applied load from 20 to 10,000 N. 
7.1. Main drivers to replace silicon in two applications: CMOS image sensors and X-ray sensors 
7.2. Structure of OPD device 
7.3. Pilot line for OPD fabrication 
7.4. Slot die coating of photodetector on a backplane 
7.5. Organic photodiode characteristics (for near infra-red) 
7.6. Organic photodiode characteristics (for visible light). 
7.7. Benchmark of OPD v.s silicon photodiode 
7.8. Plastic foil of organic photodetectors 
7.9. OPD for object detection by smart systems: logistics, retail, Point-Of-Sales display 
7.10. 8x8 arrays of organic photodetectors on a board 
7.11. ISORG technology roadmap 
7.12. Flexible pulse oximeter concept 
7.13. Scanning electron micrograph image of the tin dioxide cloth 
7.14. Organic CMOS image sensor and conventional image sensor 
7.15. Image comparison 7.16. Image sensor pixel (top view) 
7.17. CMOS VGA organic image sensor with 15µm-pixels: 
7.18. Absorbing blue vs. red light in silicon vs. QuantumFilm 
7.19. Principles of an indirect conversion digital radiography system
7.20. Main drivers to replace silicon in two applications: CMOS image sensors and X-ray sensors 
7.21. Organic image sensors sensitive to X-rays, visible, and near infrared spectrum ranges. 
7.22. Potential radiography applications for flexible display technology 
7.23. 4.9 inch X-ray sensor at SID2012 
7.24. ISORG and Plastic Logic demonstrate a flexible image sensor 
7.25. Live demonstration of the sensor at Printed Electronics USA 2013 (tradeshow) 
7.26. Fully-organic, flexible imager developed by imec, Holst Centre and Philips Research. 
8.1. Typical response from a RTD (Pt100) and a thermistor 
8.2. Pseudo linear response curve from platinum RTD (Pt-100) 
8.3. Silicon nanoparticles ink 
8.4. Negative Temperature Coefficient (NTC) thermistor 
8.5. Printed thermistor from PST sensor demonstrated at Printed Electronics Europe 2013 
8.6. Printed temperature sensor for Thinfilm's smart label (made by PST sensors) 
8.7. Printed thermistor array on PET, made by PST sensors 
8.8. Colour evolution of HEATmarker time-temperature indicators 
8.9. Demonstrator with various components from ThinFilm, PARC, Acreo and PST Sensors
8.10. The concept of printed smart labels 
8.11. Temperature sensor writing into memory 
8.12. NTC temperature sensor on flexible printed circuit 
8.13. Temperature sensing patch 
8.14. A printed heat sensor 
8.15. All-organic temperature sensor 
8.16. All-organic temperature sensor evaluation 
9.1. Porous ceramics humidity sensor 
9.2. Resistive and capacitive read-out 
9.3. Impedance response of a polymeric humidity sensor 
9.4. Capacitance readout at 25°C. 
9.5. Recommended signal conditioning circuit for capacitive readout in relative humidity (RH) sensors 
9.6. Printed Wireless Humidity Sensors On Flexible Substrates 
9.7. Wireless humidity sensor label 
9.8. Printed and Flexible humidity sensor by PST Sensors 
9.9. Flexible absolute humidity sensor 
9.10. Live speech detection by humidity sensing 
10.1. Metal-oxide gas sensor 
10.2. An electronic nose is a recognition system, not a sensor technology 
10.3. KWJ Engineering technology roadmap 
10.4. Characteristics of the CO sensor 
10.5. Sensor response to different levels of carbon monoxide 
10.6. Photograph of a wafer containing 48 sensors. 
10.7. Varying power consumption of the metal oxide gas sensors 
10.8. Cross section representation
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