Online Exclusives

Charging Ahead!

By Dave Savastano, Editor, Printed Electronics Now | November 25, 2013

Thin-film, printed and flexible batteries offer many advantages to end-users, including cost, flexibility and form factors that allow the batteries to appear in places where they could never fit before.

Devices have taken the skin care market by storm. Kline & Co. estimates the segment topped $1 billion globally, as leading marketers such as L'Oréal, Estée Lauder and Procter & Gamble entered the category. Now, innovators are creating the next generation of beauty devices that are lightweight, long-lasting and, of course, effective. There are strong signs that printed electronics (PE) systems are reaching commercialization, as new products and applications head to the market.

The advantages of printed, thin film and flexible batteries are clear. Being able to use a thin, flexible battery would allow designers and brand owners to utilize these power sources on curved surfaces. Producing flexible batteries on roll-to-roll sheets would be cost-effective, and many of these batteries are made of environmentally friendly materials.

The market for thin film batteries appears to be growing rapidly. According to "Thin Film and Printed Battery Market, Global Forecast & Analysis (2012 - 2017),” a report by MarketsandMarkets, a global research firm, the thin film and printed battery market was worth $181.5 million in 2012. MarketsandMarkets believes the market will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46.14% from 2012 to 2017, reaching a net value of $1.21 billion by 2017.

Major companies have taken notice. In 2011, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, the world’s largest printer with more than $10 billion in annual sales, took an equity position in Solicore, Lakeland, FL, a leader in embedded power solutions. Solicore’s patented products are found in smart cards, RFID devices, medical products and electronic sensors.

David Eagleson, vice president of worldwide sales for Solicore, Inc., said that interest in thin, flexible batteries is growing very quickly.

“This is a result of the deployment of millions of powered credit card devices providing security data as well as other key account related data for the card holder,” Eagleson said. “These volumes reflect merely the first stages of deployment of an marketplace that has issued billions of credit and debit cards. This market alone has established a high degree of interest and demand.

“Also in parallel to powered cards has been the development on low power sensors and communication protocols such as Blue Tooth and RFID,” Eagleson added. “These advancements are now enabling the use of thin flexible medical patches to deliver medicine at specific times and durations,. It also can be used for consumable applications such as a temperature tag to track a shipment over a 48-hour period and upon arrival the data can be downloaded.”

“The ability to print the battery, when combined with printed electronics, will further enable scale and also a means to reduce cost on these solutions to the point, with volume, to have smart packaging that can light up or interact with the shopper in ways not seen before,” Eagleson noted. “This also is very complementary to our core focus, which is as the embedded power in a smart card that can provide account balance, security via One Time Passcode (OTP) and/or loyalty points all on your credit/debit card.”

“The interest in printed batteries is strong,” said Matthew Ream, vice president marketing for Blue Spark Technologies, Westlake, OH, which spun out of Eveready Battery Company (now Energizer). “We continue to see strong interested in all of our target markets, including RFID, RF-enabled sensors, interactive printed media and medical devices.”

Anja Talo, sales director, Enfucell Ltd., Vantaa, Finland, said that interest in printed or flexible batteries is increasing.

“We get now more inquiries than a year ago, and they are more detailed than earlier,” Talo added.
“There is continued interest in clothing integrated technology and in product display type of applications,” said Shreefal Mehta, CEO of the Paper Battery Company, Troy, NY.

Key Products for Thin Film Batteries

Because of its size and form factor, thin film, printed and/or flexible batteries are ideal for many applications. For example, Talo pointed to transdermal delivery patches in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, wireless micro-sensor products in healthcare, medical and logistics, interactive cards with LEDs and other functional components as markets for these batteries.

“In general, people are integrating our batteries when they require a power source that is thin, flexible, environmentally friendly and/or disposable,” Ream noted. “In PE, our batteries easily integrate with printed flexible circuits, displays and logic.”

“First is powered cards, followed by smart packaging, smart labels with embedded sensors and smart patches, which are but a few examples of areas in which the ability to print both the battery and the circuit in scale will allow for scaled rollout of powered cards, the deployments of thin light up magazine covers, interactive cereal boxes or other consumer packaging products,” Eagleson said. “The key is any where thin and flexible are key requirements, it is in these areas that our solution will have an up matched fit. The current coin cell is very low cost because of scale, but it is not flexible it is in these areas where the printed/flexible battery has a unique value proposition and fit.”

Advantages and Limitations

There are major advantages as well as limitations of printed and flexible batteries, and advances are being made in the technology.

“The major advantages are scalability and the overall form factor, and its ability to bend and flex within the application,” Eagleson said. “The batteries are thin, flexible and safe, while also being extremely scalable to hundreds of millions of units via the printing process. The ability to print the battery also allows for a more rapid deployment of custom sizes and shapes to meet specific market requirements, with both scale and a means to drive down the cost per unit.

“The limitations currently are in the fact that the batteries are primary cell and not rechargeable,” Eagleson added. “In some applications, the ability to recharge a battery is a necessary additional value. This is an area of focus that Solicore plans in the future to develop to round out our overall product offerings of thin flexible batteries.”

“The major advantage is that they are thin and flexible,” Ream said. “There just is no other power source that can integrate the way a printed or flexible battery can. So in applications where thinness or flexibility are paramount, they are the clear choice. Applications do need to be chosen wisely, however, as printed and thin film batteries typically have a pretty tight energy density when you make them thin and flexible. This is why we partner with ultra-low power semiconductor companies to develop very integrated solutions for our customers.”

“The advantages are the thin and flexible form factor, and the size and shape can be tailored according to the application,” Talo said. “The battery can be designed and produced as an integral part of a device, and low cost in high volumes and eco-friendliness. In terms of limitations, these are best suitable for low power applications (1 mW range), and our chemistry is not rechargeable. However, integrated production is becoming a reality.”

“Integration into production processes at scale and cost are key challenges,” Mehta said. “Energy or power density are difficult to meet for all applications.”

Opportunities for Batteries

Thin film printed and flexible batteries are already playing a key role in a number of markets. Eagleson noted that Solicore is currently commercializing the printed battery with R.R. Donnelley, with targeted rollout in early 2014.

“Ongoing, our current batteries, produced by Solicore via our coated battery, are the industry standard in powering credit card applications, with deployments in the millions,” Eagleson said. “Our key fit is a result of years of development to produce an extremely thin, flexible and robust battery that can withstand the high temperature and pressures needed to create a credit card. Our batteries are powering millions of units in use today, and we have been certified by MasterCard, Visa and American Express as an accepted embedded power solution.

“We also are the power source in several medical devices from neuro-stimulators to medical patches capturing patient data or delivering medicines,” Eagleson noted. “A final example is via our group called Powered Media Technology (PMT), where the battery has been incorporated into creating lighted ads products from brochures to mailers to magazine covers. Truly the only limit to the uses of our batteries is the imagination of the design engineers. We have powered smart garments to temperature sensors to powered cards. If the requirement for the application is to have thin, flexible and safe power, we are the only proven provider with scale today.

“The key positioning for Solicore is to ensure we produce the best possible battery that is both reliable and replicable,” Eagleson concluded. “To date, we have more thin film batteries in use that anyone in the world. Our focus is solely on the thin film battery, as we do not manufacture a variety of other more traditional batteries as some of our competitors have done. This allows us to put our time and effort and R&D dollars into creating a robust, proven battery for market deployment. The best thing we can do for our customers is to give the what they need, when they need it, and to do so with a consistent, dependable product. To that end our customers know they can count on Solicore to meet all of their needs.”

Mehta is seeing batteries in use on smart cards. “We are focusing on a super capacitor product for portable electronics that integrates with electronics in a totally novel way and helps the lithium batteries get 30% longer life/run time,” Mehta added. “We have keen interest from leading portable electronics companies.”

Ream said that printed or flexible batteries are playing a key role in a number of applications, including battery assisted passive RFID smart labels, time temperature data loggers with RFID interface, interactive printed media such as beverage bottles, cosmetic iontophoresis patches and medical device telemetry.

“In addition to its best-in-class printed battery technology, Blue Spark has pulled together a unique ecosystem of both printed electronics and traditional electronics partners to help deliver integrated solutions to our customers,” Ream said.

Talo said that products already in the market include transdermal delivery patches in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, wireless micro-sensor products in healthcare and medical industry.

“Enfucell is not aiming to be the only battery manufacturer,” Talo said. “We are able to provide solutions. We have our design and development team with prototyping facilities in Finland. We are able to help our customers in product and production development and in finding suitable development and manufacturing partners. Furthermore, we are licensing our battery technology to enable our customers to set up their own production lines.”

Expectations for the Battery Market

With these opportunities in place, thin film battery producers are highly optimistic about the market’s potential in the near- and long-term. Talo said that Enfucell’s expectations for the near term are trials and limited commercial series up to some 100,000 units level. Long-term, Enfucell believes that breakthroughs in several areas, notably cosmetics and healthcare, look most promising.
“We are seeing that over the years, the market has piloted and tested the various applications, and in so doing they have proven the Solicore batteries to be an extremely effective power source,” Eagleson said. “From these efforts and with the continued development of the application supply chain to produce all the necessary components beyond the battery, the market is poised for explosive growth.

“The near term is ramping up volumes in the millions in support of the powered card space currently being consumed, and it quickly growing into tens and then hundreds of millions of units over the next few years,” Eagleson added. “It is this hype growth that will benefit greatly from the availability of our commercially available printed battery. The ability to quickly and effectively scale utilizing a proven process such as printing will be key to ensuring as the market grows Solicore can and will meet the growing demands.”

Related End-User Markets:

blog comments powered by Disqus
  • Bite Now

    Bite Now

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||May 2, 2016
    Is the time finally right for beauty-from-within to move into the mainstream?

  • That’s Awesome!

    That’s Awesome!

    May 2, 2016
    Extracts & Ingredients highlights the newest ideas in efficacious oils for the personal care market.

  • Wacker Builds on Its Success

    Wacker Builds on Its Success

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director ||May 2, 2016
    The silicone maker had a good 2015 and expects the gains to continue in 2016, driven, in part, by success in the Americas and

  • Why Look Good, When You Can Look Perfect?

    Why Look Good, When You Can Look Perfect?

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||April 4, 2016
    A new way to try-before-you buy is capturing the attention of consumers and the beauty industry.

  • NYSCC Explores Product Innovation

    NYSCC Explores Product Innovation

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||March 14, 2016
    New product development, formulation expertise and proper preservation are topics of discussion at February monthly meeting.

  • Battling Pollution via Skin Care

    Battling Pollution via Skin Care

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||March 7, 2016
    Canadian start-up turns to crowdfunding to help launch a new anti-pollution moisturizer.

  • Arm

    Arm's Reach: skin care line with unique packaging

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||February 15, 2016
    Chemist brothers create a skin care line with packaging that helps consumers cover hard to reach spots.

  • Buy the Sea, Buy the Sea, Buy the Beautiful Sea

    Buy the Sea, Buy the Sea, Buy the Beautiful Sea

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||February 9, 2016
    Nova Scotia Fisherman makes a boatload of products that contain sea kelp and a raft of natural ingredients.

  • What

    What's on Tap for 2016?

    Nancy Jeffries, Contributing Editor||February 8, 2016
    CEW and NPD present their beauty industry review and preview.

  • Witch

    Witch's Brew: Dickinson's celebrates milestone in 2016

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||February 1, 2016
    Dickinson’s celebrates 150 years of witch hazel skin care with the biggest line expansion in the company’s history.

  • From Research to Retail

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||February 1, 2016
    What began as research on skin disorders led a dermatologist and his father to create their own skin care formulas.

  • 5 Things I Learned

    5 Things I Learned

    January 15, 2016
    The Avon & Women’s Dermatologic Society Mentorship Program. Dr. Sabrina Fabi (left) and Dr. Kimberly Jerdan.

  • Perfect Timing

    Perfect Timing

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||January 11, 2016
    New ways of collecting data can help cosmetics companies understand what women really want—and when they want it.

  • When a Cosmetic Becomes a Drug

    When a Cosmetic Becomes a Drug

    Jacqueline Sheridan, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP||January 11, 2016
    The unintentional conversion of personal care products through marketing.

  • Africa, Rising

    Africa, Rising

    December 14, 2015
    Savvy marketers should expand their operations on the continent, according to speakers at a WFFC seminar.

  • A Home of One’s Own

    A Home of One’s Own

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||November 23, 2015
    NeoStrata’s Exuviance has opened its first freestanding retail space, complete with on-site skin analysis and express treatment rooms.

  • Hitting a Wall(mart)

    Hitting a Wall(mart)

    November 9, 2015
    Walmart imposes slotting fees and that hurts a lot of Tier 2 and 3 FMCG companies.

  • That’s Quite an Achievement!

    That’s Quite an Achievement!

    Nancy Jeffries, Contributing Editor||November 2, 2015
    The CEW honors seven beauty industry leaders.

  • What

    What's Not to Love?

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||October 26, 2015
    The sun care category is rife with issues, but there’s a lot to like about it.

  • Sharp Competition

    Sharp Competition

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||October 26, 2015
    800Razors.com signs a high-profile athlete to promote its growing direct-to-consumer razor and personal care business.

  • About a Boy

    About a Boy

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||October 19, 2015
    As a mom, Jenny Cupido wanted to solve her son’s skin issues. Now she’s raising an indie beauty brand too.

  • For Their Own Good

    For Their Own Good

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||September 29, 2015
    With a rich heritage and recognized formulation expertise, FC Sturtevant Company is moving into the consumer marketplace.

  • A Foothold in Foot Care

    A Foothold in Foot Care

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||September 22, 2015
    Treating feet right is the heart and soul of one Brooklyn-based company.

  • SK-II to the Rescue

    SK-II to the Rescue

    September 8, 2015
    A new formula targets microRNA, which a P&G researcher insists plays a key role in skin aging.

  • A Panoramic View

    A Panoramic View

    Jeremy Kerstetter, Assistant Editor||September 7, 2015
    ZSS takes a 360° approach to skin health.

  • It

    It's All in the Delivery

    Jeremy Kerstetter, Associate Editor||August 31, 2015
    AlureVé relies on pharmaceutical technology for its anti-aging skin care line.

  • A Brand of Its Own

    A Brand of Its Own

    Christine Esposito, Associate Editor||August 24, 2015
    Amyris creates its own skin care solution for consumers.

  • Eye on Korea

    Eye on Korea

    August 17, 2015
    At the Personal Care Conference in Shanghai there was distinct emphasis on beauty ideas from Korea.