What Is Plastic Electronics For?
It’s entertaining to watch your betters struggling to understand something which they can’t quite grasp, and so it was at the Plastic Electronics session in the Semicon Europa conference earlier this week.
What is plastic electronics for?
The Professor from Imec thought that the big question is: Is it for chips or displays?
The Professor from Fraunhofer thought it was for organic solar panels.
Sir Robin Saxby from ARM thought that whatever it was for, the ARM model was the best way to exploit it.
Prof Paul Heremans of Imec thought that in chip applications the advantages plastic has over silicon could be ruggedness and flexibility where the volumes are “enormous”.
Heremans sees possibilities in printed discretes. “We’re looking for complementarity between silicon and plastics,” he said, “could we print discretes on a PCB as complementary to silicon circuits?”
Prof Eicke Weber of Fraunhofer thought organic solar cells was a promising area for plastics because, whereas the greatest efficiency achievable by silicon solar cells is 28-29% organic solar cells have 30%, 40% or 50% efficiency and, theoretically could achieve 80%. However there are major obstacles – like long-term reliability, said Weber.
“Think beyond the possible, then back off to reality, you need a stretch goal,” said Saxby, “you need to look for a new space which no one has thought of. You can’t predict where the winds are, often they are not where you think.”
When ARM was being formed people told him it was absurd to think of a RISC processor in phones – everyone knew RISC was for high-end workstations and servers.
He advocated EU collaborative R&D programmes as a good way for a start-up to go and recommended finding like-minded people in large companies who were pursuing plastic options.
Saxby advised: “It always takes longer than you think, and it always takes more money. It’s better to get money from customers than VCs, so look for routes to money – royalties, selling tools, anything. You’ve got to get someone to give you something as soon as possible to preserve your credibility.”
Sounds like sense to me, but as to what plastic electronics is actually for seems to me to be something that has so far eluded the digerati.