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HomeBusinessPrinted Electronics for 6G Smart Surfaces: IDTechEx

Printed Electronics for 6G Smart Surfaces: IDTechEx

17 April 2021: 6G Communications is coming to your smartphone around 2030, according to Samsung and others. It can only succeed with its holographs, instant downloads and other goodies if it deploys smart surfaces everywhere. From ceilings to billboards and building facades, they must enhance and redirect the far-infrared “terahertz” beams needed because such emissions are feeble and subject to weather and things in the way. The only report that sizes and scopes this aspect is IDTechEx, “6G Communications Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces Roadmap, Materials, Market 2021-2045”.

Essential is printed electronics, with line widths of only a few microns eventually, when the second stage 6G operating frequency reaches one terahertz level. 6G will likely start at 0.3THz or so, meaning easier line widths and larger feature sizes at one-tenth of wavelength. Initially, only conventional semiconductor components will be placed behind the printed metamaterial patterns, preferably printed in copper at one-tenth of silver material cost. Printing semiconductor devices comes later.

IDTechEx is the leading market and technology expert in printed electronics. Its multi-lingual PhD level analysts are deployed worldwide. They calculate that this new printed electronics opportunity can hit over $7.5 billion by 2034, necessitating a considerable scale-up of current electronics printing facilities.

In the report, some of the thin-film technologies appraised for the application are electrohydrodynamic, flexography, flexoprint and plate, photoresist, photolithography with etching, photocurable screen printing and embossed fine metal patterning. The achievements of the leading proponents are appraised and compared.

Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx advises, “This is not just a matter of cost reduction, though printed and flexible electronics will be essential to make the envisaged vast areas viable. There are other issues such as self-powering and easy integration into wallpaper and billboards without compromising performance. Maximum benefits are planned at the second stage of 6G, including amplifying the beam before redirecting it, operating unpowered internet of things nodes and even charging your smartphone from the beam.”

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