Organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) and sensors are likely to be the primary drivers of economic growth in the printable, flexible, and wearable electronics industry over the next decade, according to a veteran industry consultant.

Harry Zervos, a principal analyst with emerging technology research firm IDTechEx, made his case to both industry colleagues and the media today during a presentation at the 2016 Canadian Printable, Flexible, Wearable Electronics Symposium (CPES2016), which was held at the Oakville, Ont. campus of Sheridan College.

With sensors – specifically glucose test strips – already representing the majority of the printed electronics market, Zervos said the experts at IDTechEx see excellent growth potential in manufacturing strips for other compounds such as gas, humidity, temperature, and biological elements other than glucose.

OLEDs, meanwhile, are a key component in the emerging microdisplay market, which includes virtual and augmented reality technology.

“We are expecting to see the OLED market grow significantly, with a lot of additional types of applications created and becoming more significant over the next decade,” Zervos told ITBusiness.ca. “It will start with smaller applications on wearables and smartphones, but as time goes by we’re going to see larger-size displays being incorporated into other product offerings as well.”

Zervos believes this growth has been pushed along by the increasing unprofitability of LCDs for manufacturers, providing an incentive for them to enter other markets that can offer potentially higher profit margins.

That said, he doesn’t believe that OLED manufacturers should count the LCD industry out just yet – he sees the LCD industry diversifying as well, led by promising developments such as quantum dot enabled LCDs, which use nanocrystals that conduct light in a manner similar to OLED technology, but do not degrade as easily, making them ideal for television, camera, or smartphone screens.

Moreover, while there used to be a significant technological gap between LCDs and OLEDs, the new generation of LEDs are capable of rendering a greater range of colours and reaching colour gamuts much higher than the competition, Zervos said.

“It’s a way for the LCD market to say, ‘we’re still around, we’re still the incumbent, and we’re not just going to wait until OLED displays take over,’” he said.

ITBusiness.ca is a media sponsor of CPES.

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