„Interested parties for mass production
of printed electronics“

Away from the casino worlds, the world's largest electronics trade fair, the Consumer Electronic Show (CES), was once again held in Las Vegas. We from InnovationLab GmbH were at the start with a three-person team in the so-called „OE-A Joint Pavilion for Flexible and Printed Electronics“ in the Venetian Expo. In this interview, our Head of Business Development Dr. Florian Ullrich sums up CES 2024, where a total of 4,300 exhibitors (including a remarkable 1,400 start-ups in Eureka Park) and over 135,000 attendees (a record result!) provided important technological impetus for the year 2024. Florian Ullrich is already looking ahead after CES in the USA, as the LOPEC (Large-area, Organic & Printed Electronics Convention) trade fair is coming up on March 6/7. In Munich, iL will also be breathing in the air of printed electronics, one of the key technologies of the 21st century.

Busy at the booth: Dr. Florian Ullrich (center) and Bart Jarkiewicz (back right) respond to customers' needs. Picture: InnovationLab

CES is the world's largest consumer-orientated technology trade fair. What was the focus this time - and in what ways was CES 2024 in Las Vegas perhaps different than usual?

Dr. Florian Ullrich: The last time iL was at CES was in 2022. Back then, Covid still dominated, so there were significantly fewer visitors than before. This year, the trade fair was back to normal - at least it felt that way. Full halls thanks to the numerous exhibitors and full aisles were the order of the day. The dominant themes were mobility, smart home and smart health alongside „normal“ consumer electronics (televisions, refrigerators, heating, etc.). It was noticeable that many exhibitors and focal points started with B2B topics that do not directly affect consumers, for example Siemens with Keynote, SK with an 'insane' adventure park stand, HD Hyundai with smart, autonomous excavators. The main focus of the energy transition was on battery storage, electrolysis (Panasonic), photovoltaics (also Panasonic, but also many other companies, integrated with battery and charging infrastructure for home use), which the large companies in particular also addressed, without this being a central theme of the trade fair. Printed electronics were mainly available at the OE-A stand, but also at large individual stands (such as Exeger) or at joint stands of various countries (EU, Korea). Korean exhibitors and joint stands also dominated. The start-up zone was even larger than the approximately 200 spaces at the joint stands of Korea, the city of Seoul and the large stands of individual universities such as KAIST from Daejeon/South Korea. In addition, it can generally be said that It felt like every second exhibitor was an AI specialist. So the tech industry is alive and kicking.

In his element: Technical Sales Manager Bart Jarkiewicz in dialog with interested parties from the Asian region. Picture: InnovationLab

The majority of companies come from Asia and the USA

Were the expectations of iL met or even exceeded?

Ullrich: We noticed a slow start on the first day, whereas days two to four completely fulfilled our expectations. Especially since on the last day we exchanged ideas with major automotive manufacturers and suppliers, agricultural machinery manufacturers, drone manufacturers and manufacturers of autonomous or collaborative robots. There were also contacts with German companies, but the majority of these came from Asia and the USA. The main group of interested parties focused on battery monitoring and/or pressure and temperature measurement. There were also several interested parties for the mass production of printed electronics. Incidentally, these were also companies that are our competitors in other areas. I was particularly pleased to receive inquiries from three distributors whose intention is to sell BaMoS locally in Korea, Japan and the USA.

As at the IAA 2023, the BaMoS demonstrator, an imitation of a battery test stand, was a major attraction. It perfectly illustrates the application potential of the technology. Picture: InnovationLab

Demonstrators and showcases are the salt in the soup. What were the reactions to our BaMoS demonstrator and „Prime-Mode“? What usefulness factor do these „systems“ have?

Ullrich: The BaMoS demonstrator in particular, an imitation of a battery test stand, shows the application potential of the technology very well. Our visitors were able to interact directly with our sensors using two other demonstrators. Our endless sensor design, which also won an award from LOPEC last year, is ideal for demonstrating R2R production, the roll-to-roll process. We would certainly show more here at a European stand, but for overseas presentations the cost of shipping would ultimately be out of all proportion to the result. Our „prime mode“ is particularly interesting for knowledgeable customers who were previously unable to use printed force sensors due to higher accuracy requirements.

No trade fair for sports and fashion

Printed Heaters: They can be used flexibly and, thanks to the new ink from ACI Materials, are high-quality, sustainable and cost-saving. How has the American market reacted to this, especially in the booming sportswear sector?

Ullrich: The feedback can be interpreted as follows. The cooperation with ACI is more interesting for the Printed PCB sector. In the printed circuit board sector, we only had a smaller demonstrator, but we believe that it convinced a technically knowledgeable audience. The inquiries here were aimed at flexibility for other industries. Printed Heaters were generally an important topic, so we expect orders here in the near future, but possibly independently of ACI. For the sports and fashion sector, on the other hand, CES does not appear to be a trade fair where new innovations are sought.

Atmosphere in the evening in front of the Venetian Expo Halls: "Sphere" can be seen in the background on the left. The spherical building, an impressive 112 meters high and 157 meters wide, is equipped with the largest LED screen in the world. Fitting for the entertainment paradise of Las Vegas. Picture: InnovationLab

AI and data control took centre stage more than ever at this year's CES. How will this affect us in the near future in terms of the direction of our business model? How can we balance the tightrope act between technical innovation and ethical responsibility?

Ullrich: The question of ethical responsibility was not really raised at CES. Of course, everyone wanted to present something with AI. It's not mandatory, but it's an added value in itself if we can offer our customers AI modules in systems. Today, our systems provide a lot of data. Coupled with AI, our systems then no longer just deliver data, but evaluated and processed information. Competitors are showing the first applications of printed electronics and AI - rather simply trained AI applications based on Arduino, but not yet marketable solutions. For us, the focus is on developing and offering AI solutions that meet specific customer needs. We have already worked together with partners in the past, for example on the development of a smart carpet. There is no denying that smart, flexible sensors and AI benefit from each other and will play an increasingly important role in the future.

A copy of Venice: iL Managing Director Dr. Michael Kröger (from left), Bart Jarkiewicz and Dr. Florian Ullrich on the replica of St. Mark's Square. Picture: InnovationLab

OE-A joint stand a good starting point

What general conclusions can be drawn from the Las Vegas days for IL with regard to the upcoming LOPEC in Munich on March 6/7?

Ullrich: In general, the contacts at CES are always more concrete and specific. We often deal with development engineers from companies who are looking for solutions to specific problems or new technologies, which in turn can lead to new solutions. The OE-A joint stand, to which we as iL also belonged, is already a focal point for printed electronics at CES. The main difference between CES and LOPEC is that LOPEC is a focused trade fair for printed electronics. Those who come to Munich are looking for and will find printed electronics, but also a lot of contact with suppliers and competitors. Our focus at LOPEC will therefore be on production capability, as this is what sets us apart from the competition.


Joachim Klaehn

Head of Communications