White Paper:  The Coming Strategic Crisis in the Silver Inks and  Pastes Business and How it Can be OvercomePublished Marc...
All That is Silver is Not GoldNanoMarkets believes that the silver inks and pastes business will face significant strategi...
The downward trend in the use of silver in the solar panel market has been exacerbated by thehigh price of silver, the ave...
Just what kind of niches are we talking about? Some potential new applications for printed silver,along with the likelihoo...
cost-effectively. Indeed, nearly all of the major silver paste and ink suppliers, like Heraeus(Germany), Henkel (U.S.), an...
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The Coming Strategic Crisis in the Silver Inks and Pastes Business and How it Can be Overcome

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NanoMarkets believes that the silver inks and pastes business will face significant strategic challenges in the next decade. The firm is projecting that the total market for silver inks and pastes will contract from approximately $7.8 billion to about $7.5 billion by the end of the decade. And while a market decline of under 4 percent does not seem like the end of the world, the industry is lacking a new opportunity to pursue as it has in the past when silver paste makers rode the home appliance wave into consumer electronics, then computers, cell phones and most recently solar panels, as each of these sectors took off. But with hard times in the solar industry, the silver inks and pastes industry’s luck seems to have run out. There seems to be no big new market to take solar’s place.

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The Coming Strategic Crisis in the Silver Inks and Pastes Business and How it Can be Overcome

  1. 1. White Paper: The Coming Strategic Crisis in the Silver Inks and Pastes Business and How it Can be OvercomePublished March 2013
  2. 2. All That is Silver is Not GoldNanoMarkets believes that the silver inks and pastes business will face significant strategicchallenges in the next decade. And the situation may be worse than the projected small declinein sales revenues seem initially to indicate. Page | 1Consider our latest pronouncements on this topic, shown in Exhibit 1. What we are projectinghere is that the total market for silver inks and pastes will contract from approximately $7.8 billionto about $7.5 billion by the end of the decade. Superficially, this doesn’t seem so bad; silverpastes are a mature sector and a decline in the market of under 4 percent over a ten-year period,doesn’t seem like the end of the world. Exhibit 1. Market Value of Printable Silver in Electronics Applicatons 2013-2020 ($ Billions) 9.0 8.0 7.0 6.0 5.0 4.0 3.0 All Other Applciations 2.0 Photovoltaics 1.0 0.0 Year © NanoMarkets, LCBut there is more going on here. The silver pastes industry has seen the rise and fall of customersectors, before. But it has also been lucky. When one type of customer has gone into decline,the silver pastes suppliers soon find another application sector to pursue.Thus the silver paste makers rode the home appliance wave into the 1970s and then — as thatmarket became saturated — it moved to the then-just-rising consumer electronics market. Andthen on to computers, cell phones and most recently solar panels, as each of these sectors tookoff.But with hard times in the solar industry, the silver inks and pastes industry’s luck seems to haverun out. There seems to be no big new market to take solar’s place.Silver and SolarFor the past few years, the solar panels industry has been the largest user of silver pastes of allthe major customer sectors served by the silver pastes and inks industry. Over that period of timethe number of solar panels sold has continued to grow, but price pressures have mounted and thesolar industry has worked hard to find ways to avoid high-priced materials such as silver.
  3. 3. The downward trend in the use of silver in the solar panel market has been exacerbated by thehigh price of silver, the average of which has been well over $30 per troy ounce over the past twoyears. The price of silver reached a historically high annual average in 2011 at $35 per troyounce; the 2012 average price of silver was slightly lower, but still very high at $31 per troy ounce,and the first quarter of 2013 is seeing similarly high values. Page | 2These persistently high average prices—more than twice those of just three or four years ago—are a huge challenge for silver. In addition, there appears to be no relief in sight as far as silverprices are concerned.Meanwhile, the solar panel industry has found successful ways to avoid using silver. Forconventional c-Si panels, backside metallization is shifting toward low-cost aluminum pastes, andtabbing operations are being converted to low-silver or silver-free solders. And to make mattersworse, more and more PV is shifting, slowly but surely, toward thin-film PV (TFPV), which doesnot use nearly as much silver as the conventional c-Si PV that dominates the market today.The breakout of printed silver by application, showing the importance of the c-Si PV sector andthe decline in consumption, is shown in Exhibit 2 below. Exhibit 2. Market Value of Silver Inks & Pastes in PV Applications 2013-2020 ($ Billions) 6.0 5.0 4.0 3.0 All other PV 2.0 c-Si Tabbing c-Si Back Electrodes 1.0 c-Si Front Electrodes 0.0 Year © NanoMarkets, LCThe only good news that NanoMarkets sees here is that c-Si front-side electrodes, which are sotechnically demanding that few reasonable substitutes exist, will continue to be a strong marketfor printed silver.What’s Next?In the future, the silver inks and pastes business may find its salvation in some new major trend inelectronics, just as it has before. But there are no guarantees and there are no obviouscandidates for a big new market. So NanoMarkets believes that the silver inks and pastes sectoris going to have to make do with less for a while and rely for revenues on more niche-likeopportunities than it has for several decades.
  4. 4. Just what kind of niches are we talking about? Some potential new applications for printed silver,along with the likelihood that they may represent significant outlets, are shown in Exhibit 3.Exhibit 3. Assessment of Potential New Markets for Silver Inks and Pastes Page | 3Application Factors For or Against Printed SilverTouch Displays Boom in touch-enabled mobile computing is increasing the importance of projected-capacitive (Pro-cap) touch technology. Pro-cap implies need for minimization of contact resistance in the border areas of panels, thus favoring the use of silver, because of its high conductivityFlexible Displays This market deserves some skepticism after many years of broken promises, but flexible displays may be on the horizon from both Samsung and LG. If successful, commercialization of flexible displays implies (eventually) the use of plastic substrates, which favors low-temperature printed silver circuitry. However, the market is risky, because demand for flexible displays is uncertain, and/or they may be quickly rendered obsolete by augmented reality glasses and the original concept of roll-up displays has already been challenged by tablet computingOLED Lighting OLED lighting may be poised for growth after 2016, but only if the industry solves serious technical and cost challenges. Printed silver front-side grids could enable larger panel formats in OLED lighting, which is one of the remaining challengesSensors and Ubiquitous electronics seeks to create a feedback-connected network ofUbiquitous Electronics sensing, computing, and the “Internet-of-Things.” If this concept is successful printed silver circuitry, with it superior conductivity, could enable maximum sensitivity for some devices in the Internet-of-thingsNew Applications in There may be yet-unidentified applications for printable silver to addressTFPV TFPV-specific issues. One example is flexible TFPV on plastic substrates, in which the need for printing and low-temperature curing of circuitry may favor silver© NanoMarkets 2013New Product Development for New TimesThe high price of silver gives suppliers an incentive to develop specialized products that help tolower the overall cost-in-use of printed silver in existing applications.Less silver: Silver ink/paste suppliers have an opportunity develop silver-based products withhigh performance at lower silver loadings, thus enabling their customers to use printed silver more
  5. 5. cost-effectively. Indeed, nearly all of the major silver paste and ink suppliers, like Heraeus(Germany), Henkel (U.S.), and DuPont (U.S.), have spent the past year or so developing andreleasing products with lower silver content that purportedly do not sacrifice performance.Using silver with other conductive materials: The other key strategy toward productdevelopment includes increased contributions from alternative/cheaper conductors like carbon Page | 4and/or silver-coated particles.This is an old strategy, employed by silver pastes firms for many years when prices were high fortheir products. But today, with the likelihood of silver prices staying at historical highs, thebusiness conditions for lower-silver inks and pastes are much more stable than they have everbeen. In the past, the fortunes of alternative products have waxed and waned with rapidlyfluctuating silver prices.NanoMarkets acknowledges that none of what we have said in this White Paper is likely to induceexcitement in the silver inks and pastes market. Apparently, the sector just doesn’t have bigopportunities available to it right now. Faced with this situation, strategic withdrawal from themarket is one option, of course. In fact, we have already seen at least one silver paste supplier(Ferro, U.S.), take this approach, deciding to focus instead on its core competence in silverpowders and flakes.More generally, NanoMarkets believes that silver ink and paste makers must adjust strategicallyto harder times and lower growth expectations than they have had for quite some time. Some willmake this transition and some won’t.The contents of this paper were taken from the NanoMarkets report, “The Silver Inks andPastes Market 2013.” For additional information on this report, please visitwww.nanomarkets.net

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