Friday, April 16, 2004

Plastic Chips and Paper Disks

I think some of the more fascinating things we are going to experience over the next 5-10 years is the introduction of new types of low-cost, high volume materials for electronics components. Two examples of early stage research were announced yesterday:

New CD/DVD Disk Made of Paper

Researchers Unveil Plastic Semiconductors

There are several benefits these technologies will bring:

1. New Economic Cost Structure - While the variable costs of using paper over plastic for DVDs and using plastic instead silicon are obvious, less obvious are the huge savings in fixed, capital costs. It takes several billion dollars to produce a state-of-the-art silicon fabrication site ("fab"). It is likely that these technologies will dramatically lower the cost to open a plant (not including the basic R&D), changing the economics of the entire industry.

2. New Product Designs - One of the more exciting aspects of these technologies will be the movement away from flat, planar silicon structures to organic, plastic substrates, allowing the creation of curved, see-through, or even "bendable" products.


Actual Examples of See-through and Bendable "Computer Chips"


The most promising product for this technology is a flat-panel screen (or laptop) that you roll up, like a newspaper. Another product I would like to see is one of those displays/monitors on sci-fi shows that are see-through until you turn them on (which will now be possible).

3. Disposable Products - Many people will argue that cellphones, PCs and other electronics are already "disposable", but with the advent of these types of materials, new products and business models that haven't been possible will become economically feasible.

This is in addition to the typical benefits that we already see in the electronics industry: cheaper, smaller and faster.

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