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Printed Electronics, RFID Growing in China

By Tim Wright

Published November 18, 2009
By David Savastano

The market for printed electronics (PE) and radio frequency identification (RFID) is one of the strongest growth areas in industry today, with estimates by IDTechEx, a leading consultant in this field, placing the potential market for PE at $330 billion by 2026.

China is very much in the forefront of this technology. China’s RFID market is the world’s largest, estimated at just under $2 billion in 2008 by IDTechEx, driven by the country’s national card project and electronic ticketing. Shanghai Hua Hong NEC Electronics Company, Ltd. is the producer of the RFID chips for the national card.

Confidex, the Finland-based RFID tag design and manufacturing specialist, is also active in the Chinese RFID market. In August 2006, Guangshen Railway Company Ltd., part of the world’s largest public transport operator, Ministry of Railways of China, selected Confidex’s Guangzhou subsidiary, XinTag, as the supplier of contactless limited use tickets. Under the five-year contract, Confidex is to provide 125 million RFID tickets, with deliveries that started in October 2006.

Also in 2006, Symbol Technologies, Inc., now part of Motorola, was selected by China Post to supply RFID technology to track express mail bags within the postal district of Shanghai (Shanghai Post).

Another important leader is ASK-TongFang, a joint venture between France-based ASK SA (France) and Tsinghua Tongfang Limited of Beijing, which is a major leader in paper-based RFID electronic tickets in China.

Motorola, Avery Dennison RFID Division, and U.S.-based printer Print-O-Tape are collaborating on a project to supply Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) with up to 70 million radio frequency identification (RFID) enabled baggage tracking tags.

Thin-Film Solar Market

The market for solar cells in China is a major growth area, as the country seeks to grow its renewable energy portfolio. Major domestic manufacturers, led by Wuxi-based Suntech, utilize the classic approach to rigid solar structures; in 2008, the output of crystalline silicon PV cells and modules in China was about one-third of the world’s total volume.

In the past year alone, DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions opened a photovoltaic (PV) technical center at its China global R&D Center in Shanghai. Evergreen Solar entered into a frame agreement with Jiawei Solar (Wuhan) Co. and the Wuhan Donghu New Technology Development Zone Management Committee for a significant expansion in its String Ribbon wafer manufacturing facility in Wuhan, China.

There are also plenty of opportunities for thin-film flexible photovoltaics (PV) in China as well.

Applied Materials opened its state-of-the-art $250 million Solar Technology Centre in Xian, China in 2009. Applied Materials said this is the largest non-government solar energy research facility in the world, comprised of laboratory and office buildings covering more than 400,000 square feet and contains an entire Applied SunFab thin film manufacturing line.

Xian is located in the Shaanxi province in northwest China and is a growing center of energy technology excellence in China. The local province boasts more than 40 colleges and universities and Xian is recognized as one of the leading high-technology research areas in the country.

Meanwhile, First Solar, Tucson, AZ, the world’s largest producer of solar cells, announced in September 2009 a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government to build a 2 gigawatt solar power plant in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia, China. The plant’s capacity will be phased in, with completion scheduled for 2019. First Solar utilizes cadmium telluride for its thin-film solar cells.

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