Printed Electronics Transitions to Wearable Health Monitoring

Article By : George Leopold

An aging population is creating more use cases for printed electronics that can be used in health monitoring...

The increasingly diverse $3.6 billion printed electronics / sensors market is forecast to expand 25 percent over the next decade, fueled by expansion of the hybrid image sensors that can be produced with few modifications to existing CMOS manufacturing lines.

That attribute “greatly reduces the barriers to entry,” IDTechEx Research concludes in a bullish forecast that the fully printed sensor market will reach $4.5 billion by 2030.

Printed sensors technology had long been driven by the need for measuring blood glucose concentrations in diabetes sufferers. Billions of the strips are used each year. Now, the market is gradually diversifying to include wearable electrodes, image sensors and other applications.

“Within this diverse application space, some sensors comprise a very simple structure with only a few layers, whilst others are much more complex and require the deposition of multiple layers and sophisticated, innovative materials,” Matthew Dyson, a technology analyst IDTechX, noted in a blog post.

Along with large-area image sensors, the printed electronics sector has expanded to include piezoelectric, temperature, and capacitive strain sensors, along with biosensors likely to find use cases during the pandemic.

IDTechX predicts hybrid image sensor are poised to emerge, with devices based on organic semiconductor technology or quantum dot nanoscale crystals printed over a silicon circuit. “Hybrid image sensors can be manufactured using repurposed CMOS lines, substantially reducing capital requirements,” Dyson noted.

printed electronics
Source: IDTechX (click on the image for a larger view.)

Image sensors based on printed organic photodiodes are another promising printed electronics technology, differing from conventional CMOS image detectors. The technology is promoted as more flexible and lighter than silicon-based image detectors that can be printed using less expensive manufacturing methods.

While printed biosensors such a glucose test strips continue to drive the printed electronics market, emerging medical applications like wearable electrodes are emerging for a range of medical and fitness applications. “Both medical and fitness applications of printed wearable electrodes are likely to increase as the software for continuous monitoring develops, thus creating greater demand,” IDTechX said.

Indeed, skin patches are forecast to be a driver of the printed electronics market as traditional applications like glucose test strips decline, according to the market tracker.

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