IDTechEx’s report ‘Conductive Inks Market 2023-2033’ comprehensively explores this crucial material technology that underpins both photovoltaics and the emerging field of printed electronics. Based on interviews with over 30 companies, the report assesses the market for each of 8 different conductive ink types across 15 different applications. Conductive ink types include flake-based silver, nanoparticle-based silver, copper, stretchable/thermoformable and particle-free, while applications include photovoltaics, multiple types of printed sensors, flexible hybrid electronics (FHE), in-mold electronics (IME), and RFID/smart packaging. This detailed segmentation provides 39 distinct forecast lines, providing a clear picture of the status of the market for each ink type and future opportunities. The market as a whole is currently valued at US$2.7B, and forecast to grow to US$4.5B by 2033, with all this growth coming from emerging applications across printed/flexible/wearable electronics rather than from silicon photovoltaics.
Primary insight from interviews with individual players, ranging from established players to innovative start-ups, is included via over 30 detailed company profiles that include discussion of both technology and business models along with SWOT analysis. Additionally, the report includes analysis of conductive ink parameter space, based on a database of over 100 conductive inks that includes curing time, conductivity, and viscosity. Together with segmentation of suppliers by ink type, this should assist with gaining a comprehensive picture of the global conductive ink market.
Conductive ink types and applications covered in the report.
Flake-based conductive inks are a longstanding technology, widely used for metallizing the upper surface of photovoltaic panels for charge extraction. However, this market is unlikely to keep up with growth in PV panels, with new technologies developing to reduce the amount of silver ink required. Instead, much of the growth will come from emerging applications across the printed flexible electronics space.
This broadening of the application space creates opportunities for emerging conductive ink formulations that aim to meet specific application requirements:
- Particle-free conductive inks are metallized in situ, producing a smooth, thin conductive layer ideally suited to high frequency EMI shielding and antennas. The very low viscosity also makes these inks ideally suited to high resolution deposition techniques such as aerosol printing.
- Nanoparticle-based conductive inks offer higher conductivity, enabling more compact circuit designs.
- Liquid metal gel makes an ideal stretchable ink since there is no increase in resistance over time – the conductive liquid flows to accommodate the dimensional change. It is primarily targeted at wearable strain sensors.
- Copper-based inks with additives that prevent oxidation during sintering. These are gaining significant traction, with major electronics manufacturers running qualification projects. Copper inks are especially suitable where cost is the main driver, such as RFID/smart packaging antennas.
As a platform technology for printed electronics, conductive inks can be utilized in a remarkably wide range of applications, spanning market verticals ranging from healthcare to energy. This report divides the conductive ink application space into 15 segments, each outlining:
- Introduction to the application.
- Assessment of technological and commercial status.
- Conductive ink requirements for that specific application.
- Examples of conductive inks targeting that application.
- Market forecast, including the adoption of different ink types where appropriate.
Some of the most promising conductive ink applications, due to the potential for both rapid growth and specialist ink requirements enabling differentiation, are electronic skin patches, strain sensors and in-mold electronics (IME).
The growth in printed/flexible/hybrid electronics, especially where it enables new applications and even business models such as electronic skin patches for remote health monitoring and smart packaging, will drive the growth of the conductive ink market over the next decade. Furthermore, many emerging applications, such is in-mold electronics, e-textiles and high-frequency antennas, have specific ink requirements that provides an opportunity for differentiation.