May 18, 2024
South Korea Printed Electronics

South Korea Printed Electronics Industry: South Korea Leads the Global Printed Electronics Industry

Introduction of South Korea Printed Electronics Industry

Printed electronics is the application of printable electronic devices and components on various substrates such as plastic films, papers, fabrics using printing techniques. The printed electronics industry began growing rapidly in South Korea starting from the early 2000s when several research institutes and companies started working on developing printing techniques for manufacturing electronic devices on flexible plastic substrates. The South Korean government also recognized the huge potential of this emerging sector and provided generous funding and subsidies to accelerate research and commercialization activities. Some of the earliest applications that were commercialized included electronic posters, smart labels, RFID tags, sensors for consumer goods.

Rise of OLED Display Manufacturing

One of the biggest successes for South Korea Printed Electronics industry has been in the large-scale manufacturing of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. Several Korean display giants such as Samsung, LG Display, and others invested heavily in setting up dedicated AMOLED panel production lines since the late 2000s. Advantages like higher contrast, thinner form factor, and vibrant colors helped OLED technology supersede LCD displays in premium smartphones and TVs. By 2018, South Korea had become the indisputable global leader in OLED panel production, accounting for over 90% of the worldwide supply. The country’s expertise and scale in printed electronics processes like deposition, patterning, and encapsulation of thin organic film layers were crucial in scaling up OLED production. South Korean firms also drive the innovation needed to increase panel sizes and yields while reducing costs.

Expansion into Wearables and Flexible Displays

Emboldened by their success in smartphones and TVs, Korean companies have also started exploring more novel applications of printed/flexible electronics. Samsung has been a pioneer in bringing OLED displays to bracelets, smartwatches, and foldable smartphones with its Galaxy series. Other homegrown brands like LG and BOE have also rapidly scaled up production of flexible OEM panels for smartwatches with AMOLED/PMOLED technology. Such wearables benefit immensely from the lightweight, unbreakable, and form-fitting attributes of printed flexible displays. Looking ahead, rollable and stretchable displays are tipped to be the next frontier as Korean firms strive for larger screen sizes without sacrificing portability. Potential uses could include foldable laptops/tablets, electronic clothing, and even living room displays.

Growth of South Korea Printed Electronics and IoT

Another crucial area where South Korea is emerging as a leader is printed/flexible sensors. Korean research institutions like POSTECH and industry consortia like Printed Electronics Alliance Korea (PEAK) have pioneered the development of printed humidity, temperature, touch, and health sensors. Applications span smart packaging, medical electronics, environmental monitoring, industrial IoT. Industry giants such as Samsung, LG, and SK Telecom are also ramping up their IoT businesses by combining printed sensors with cloud connectivity and data analytics software. With capabilities across the entire value chain from materials and inks to manufacturing and systems integration, Korean firms are well-positioned in the growing global market for printed sensor modules for predictive maintenance, logistics, and smart homes. Continued government incentives for IoT commercialization should further fuel the demand and opportunities in this space.

Expansion of Domestic Supply Chain

A major driving factor for South Korea’s dominance has been its robust printed electronics supply chain ecosystem involving raw material producers, equipment makers, OSAT service providers and EMS companies. Major industrial groups have invested in world-class pilot and mass production lines, while suppliers provide specialized machines, materials and assembly/packaging services. The past few years have seen rapid scaling of domestic material producers providing essential inks, substrates and compounds for various printed devices. Specialty chemical giants like LG Chem, Dow and Hanwha have major operations dedicated to developing organic semiconductors, polymers and other key materials. Equipment providers like Creative ( Korea), DMEGC ( Korea) and Kateeva ( USA) have productized the latest generation of printing and deposition systems, enabling cost-efficient manufacturing at scale.

Government Support and Future Outlook

The South Korean government has been vigorously promoting its printed electronics industry through the National Research Council of Science & Technology (NST). Targeted R&D funds, subsidies for facilities/equipment as well as industry-academia collaboration programs have encouraged both groundbreaking innovations and speedy commercialization. The formation of national printed electronics clusters in Daegu and Gwangju has bought together researchers, suppliers and major firms under one umbrella.

Overall, plans are afoot to invest over $10 billion in next-gen technologies like stretchable displays, bioprinting and printed memory by 2030. With stated ambitions of becoming a global leader in 6G and the latest materials, Korea’s printed electronics industry can look ahead to continued growth riding on its proven strengths in manufacturing scale-up, supply chain integration and policy support.

*Note:
1.Source: CoherentMI, Public sources, Desk research
2.We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it