Düsseldorf, Germany — Officials of Applied Materials Inc. see a flexible future.
The supplier of machinery for vacuum coating of thin films is playing a big role in flexible things. Packaging and pouches yes; currency security markings, of course. But also batteries and bendable mobile phones and computer tablets of the future.
Sensors placed right on film have come out in the past several years as an alternative to glass, said Daniel Forster, vice president and general manager of flexible electronics and roll-to-roll coating products.
Glass cannot bend. At Applied Materials' K 2016 news conference, Forster said that, over the next two to five years, phones and tablets will become more flexible. The electronics industry is working on flat, thin-film products you can flip open out, or even roll up and put in your back pocket, he said. You could unfold your smartwatch to make a bigger screen, then fold it back.
A key will be flexible batteries.
Another hot area, wearable sensors that can gauge medical information on your body, is in the development phase and will come out in the next five years, Forster said.
“Smart” food packaging also is coming, with touch sensors in the film that can change colors to show when food is no longer fresh.
Applied Materials is based in Santa Clara, Calif., but its technology development and manufacturing of large systems is done in a 22,000-square-meter facility in Alzenau, Germany.
The company's machinery includes TopMet and Topbeam coating lines, Topcoil evaporation web coating lines with induction heated crucible technology and the SmartWeb roll-to-roll sputter systems.
The TopMet IP system can do black and white printing on roll-to-roll.