Indium tin oxide (ITO) film and glass technology that currently dominates the market for touch-screen display coating is set to face some serious competition in the coming years, as alternative technologies capture a significant share of the market.
ITO now has a massive lead in the market for transparent conductive coatings for touch screens, accounting for 95 percent of film demand by area, according to the new report entitled “Touch-Panel-Use Transparent Conductive Film Report – 2013” from IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS). However, by the end of 2017, area shipment of alternative technologies such as silver nanowire, copper mesh, silver mesh, silver halide, and silver nano particle will account for 34 percent of the market, reducing ITO’s share to 66 percent.
“The use of alternative films is being driven by demand for larger touch screens, where ITO film suffers some limitations,” said Irene Heo, senior analyst for display components and materials at IHS. “Until this year, touch panels were mostly employed for applications with relatively small screens, such as smartphones, tablet PCs, notebook PCs, ATMs and car navigation systems. But recently, touch user interface (UI) began to be applied to devices with larger screens, such as all-in-one (AIO) PCs, electronic bulletin boards and large notebook PCs. As a result, this year has turned out to be a major milestone for market adoption of non-ITO films.”
Shipments of non-ITO films for touch screens are on track to rise by a spectacular 320 percent this year, the highest rate of annual growth in the IHS forecast.
ITO comes in two forms, film and glass. The film form of ITO carries a high resistance of 100 ohms per square meter. This means it cannot be used for displays larger than 15 inches.
For touch-screen displays larger than 15 inches, ITO glass is the dominant technology. ITO glass has a resistance of about 50 ohms per square meter, much lower than ITO film. A touch panel up to 20 to 30 inches can be attained using ITO glass.
Non-ITO films are competing with both ITO film and glass for different sizes. In particular, non-ITO films have already been applied to devices with large screens where ITO film cannot be used.
Furthermore, indium is a rare metal that is expensive and limited in supply, so non-ITO film can be a more economical alternative.