Dateline: May 16, 2013 University of Massachusetts, Amherst National Materials Research Science & Engineering Center on Polymers Symposium:"Materials and Processes for Flexible Devices & Electronics"
On Lunch break. The Symposium is being attended by the top 150 scientists on the world conducting research in the field, including scores of university professors and IBM Research, GE Global Research, the U.S. military, Kodak, Madico, Micro Chem, FRX Polymers, Pnasonic Boston Labs, E Ink, Henkel, Pix Elligent, and Argotec.
Most of what they are discussing will not be commercialized for five years or so, and much of it is far over the head of your correspondent, who abandoned his serious scientific pursuits after studying two years of chemical engineering and organic chemistry at Cornell, so please do not expect any detailed discussion here of scalable atomic-level deposition or the use of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or use as organic interfaces in constructing wire conductors on polymer substrates. (For that, wait a month or so for the publication of the Kodak presentation in the Applied Physics Letters, and others elsewhere in scientific journals, although I may attempt as larger SA article if I find the courage),
What I can tell those of you interested in UNXL and its competitors and the touch-screen industry in general, and with a high degree of certainty, is the following:
- All the panelists whose presentations I attended agreed that ITO is obsolescent; most of them spoke about it like a cantankerous old friend who was on her deathbed.
- Metal conductors are far superiors for cost, conductivity, ease of workability, scalability, and a host of other benefits. Best are silver, copper, aluminum, and zinc oxide.
- Continuous, high-sped, roll-to-roll printing of electronics on flexible substrates is the best commercial process for easy, inexpensive, high-quality, low-cost production.
- Run rates exceeding ten meters a minute were easily obtainale in some labs with less than 1% defects, although printingg conditions must be carefully controlled with regard to cleanliness, temperature, and keeping the deposition flat and even.
- The UNXL production partner, Kodak, is held in high regard by the entire industry and is looked upon with awe by many as the world leader in the printing of materials on flexible substrates
In short, UNXL seems to be doing everything correctly and its processes are the state of the art:
In private discussions with Kodak researchers, I was told that they see no benefits whatever for touch screen makers to reduce the size of their lines from the 5-6 microns that UJNXL is using to the nanotech level, upon which the conference focused. Thus, the UNXL technology should be able to prevail and endure into the far future.
I was also assured by the Kodak researchers that if the partnership with UNXL is a scam, as the shorts have alleged, then this is all news to them. They told me that the building in Eastman Industrial Park is being prepared for the Pixie, that they anticipate the plating and printing lines to be up and running by late September-October, and that Kodak is heavily counting on its partnership with UNXL to help it come roaring out of bankruptcy and resume its former position as one of the world's leading manufacturers of film product.
In sum and substance, UNXL looks green to go. And I gotta go back to the conference.
Disclosure: I am long UNXL.