This week we are diving into the world of electronics manufacturing business. Our goal is to find out who are the biggest competitors of our partner company Canatu in the flexible touch sensor market, and what are Canatu’s CNB film’s advantages and disadvantages compared to the other solutions.
Traditionally, touch surfaces have often been made from indium tin oxide. However, this material is quite fragile and thus not very suitable for flexible applications. In addition, it is relatively expensive. Thus, a new market has emerged for alternative materials. Important properties for these materials are flexibility, transparency and conductivity.
Canatu claims the intellectual property for the carbon nanobud (CNB) material. Thus, Canatu’s competitors are manufacturers of other materials. For instance, carbon nanotubes (CNT) are very closely related to Canatu’s CNB material and mostly represent the same markets in many industries.
The first thing we noticed when looking into the subject was that Canatu as a company has rather good visibility. When you search Google for “flexible touch sensors”, they are the first manufacturer whose official page you see. You also find an article about them. Most other links are research articles that don’t seem to be commercialized. The only other manufacturer on the first page is Atmel, and they have actually sold their technology to UniPixel (more about UniPixel below).
Exponentially growing markets
Quite expectedly, there is an expanding interest towards carbon nanotubes. According to Electroiq.com (n.d.), the global carbon nanotubes market accounted for 1.13 billion USD back in 2014. Moreover, the market was estimated to reach 6.81 billion USD in 2023, representing a compound annual growth rate of 22.1% between 2015 and 2023. Both more moderate (3.42 billion USD by 2022) and more optimistic (14.8 billion USD in 2025) forecasts have been made. Nevertheless, it is widely accepted that carbon nanotubes will have a strong market in the future. (Markets, 2017; Grandviewresearch.com, 2015)
The polymers segment has covered the biggest share of the nanotubes market during the past years. Electricals and electronics represented the second-biggest share of the market in 2014. Geographically, Asia Pacific accounted for a share of over 40% in the global nanotubes market in 2014. Furthermore, the share of Asia Pacific is forecasted to be strong in the future. Nevertheless, North America and Europe also show positive trends, having significant increase in demand for carbon nanotubes. This attitudinal development is enhanced by favorable policies and growing utilization of CNB applications in numerous industries. (Electroiq.com, n.d.).
Due to a large number of applications and industries available for carbon nanotubes, not every nanotube manufacturer competes directly with Canatu. However, there are companies that more or less compete against Canatu within the same markets and target the same clients. Some of these companies are listed below.
Cochief Industrial Co., Ltd.
Cochief Industrial Co., Ltd. is a Taiwanese company that develops mainly electro-luminescent products. They also offer a flexible touch sensor solution. It is described as highly transparent. Judging based on the pictures on their website, however, it seems that the product is very opaque compared to Canatu’s films.
Unipixel’s XTouch Sensors are a noteworthy competitor to Canatu’s CNB films. Their main advantage appears to be six to thirty times lower sheet resistivity. However, they seem to offer less substrate options than Canatu. In addition, Canatu’s carbon-based solution should be more environmentally friendly than UniPixel’s copper mesh.
Spectra Symbol’s Flex Sensors supposedly have the advantage of working also in extreme temperatures. In addition, it’s resistance can be adjusted for the application. However, it doesn’t seem to be transparent. Also, the sensors are offered apparently only in the size range between one and five inches.
PolyIC’s PolyTC® films are comparable to UniPixel’s sensors. They offer somewhat lower resistivity than CNB films, but are metal-based and apparently offered on only single type of substrate. In addition, they seem to be slightly less transparent than Canatu’s films.
C3Nano manufactures Activegrid that is transparent conductive film for commercial flexible display products. Activegrid utilizes silver nanowire (AgNW) transparent ink that the company has developed jointly with Nissha Printing. This film has lower sheet resistivity, approximately the same transmission percentage, but has a larger haze than Canatu’s CNB film.
The above assortment of competitors of Canatu doesn’t seem to offer anything unequivocally better than Canatu’s films. Some of them may be better choices for some specific applications, but the CNB films seem to be the most general solution. Also the environmental friendliness separates CNB films from metal-based alternatives. In addition, it is an interesting notion that Canatu is a company specialized in flexible touch sensors, whereas most of the competitors are larger companies that offer many other products. It might be a good idea to use their touch sensors in combination with their other technologies, but for generally best touch sensors one should trust in those specializing to them.
Next week… something else!
Electroiq.com. (n.d.). Carbon nanotubes market to rise exponentially | Solid State Technology. [online] Available at: http://electroiq.com/blog/2016/02/carbon-nanotubes-market-to-rise-exponentially/ [Accessed 14 Apr. 2017].
Grandviewresearch.com. (2015). Global Carbon Nanotubes (CNT) Market By Product (Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes (SWCNT), Multi Walled Carbon Nanotubes (MWCNT)), By Application (Polymers, Energy, Electrical & Electronics) Is Expected To Reach USD 3.42 Billion By 2022. [online] Available at: http://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/carbon-nanotubes-market [Accessed 14 Apr. 2017].
Markets, R. (2017). Global $14.8 Billion Carbon Nanotubes Market Analysis & Trends 2013-2016 & Industry Forecasts 2017-2025 – Research and Markets. [online] Prnewswire.com. Available at: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-148-billion-carbon-nanotubes-market-analysis–trends-2013-2016–industry-forecasts-2017-2025—research-and-markets-300428366.html [Accessed 14 Apr. 2017].