Smart glass technology has received hundreds of millions of dollars in investment over the past few years. This has resulted in a rapid expansion of the production capacity globally. At the same time, the trends towards energy efficiency, comfort and privacy are creating demand. The demand is also being pushed by the fact that smart glass technology is also being exploited as a differentiator in the otherwise highly competitive and commoditised glass industry.
Despite this and despite more than twenty years of technology development the market today remains relatively small. The foundation stones for future growth are however being set today, both on the supply and the demand side. Indeed, IDTechEx Research estimates that the value of this market will reach at least $700 million in 2013.
Smart glass refers to a multitude of technologies covering electro-chromic, thermo-chromic, suspended particle and liquid crystal technologies. Each technology offers a different set of attributes and cost structure, and is therefore aimed at a different market segment. Interestingly, there are slight variations even within a given technology, owing to the launch of successive technology generations.
Electro-chromic technologies (EC) give the user the ability to tune the optical transmission from clear to dark. They however have a low switching speed, lack complete opacity, and offer only a mid-range price tag compared to other smart glass technologies. Thermo-chromic technologies, in contrast, give no control to the end user. Instead, the offer the lowest cost option.
Liquid crystal (LC) smart glass technology beats others in terms of switching speed, and the opacity of the dark state. It however also falls short on controllability as only two states (clear or opaque) can be achieved. It is amongst the more expensive options too.
Suspended particle technology combines high switching speed and user control. This is a compelling value proposition but comes at a cost. Indeed, this technology commands the highest price tag today.
This report will offer
Detailed assessment of each smart glass technology covering operating principles, materials, manufacturing processes, latest innovations and unresolved technology challenges
Detailed benchmarking of different smart glass technologies on the basis of cost, transmission, quality, controllability, power usage, etc...
Smart glass has already achieved limited commercial success. For example, suspended particles smart glass technology is being increasingly adopted in premium luxury cars such as the Mercedes Benz SLK. This technology was gained traction in this market segment owing to its high switching speed and high user controllability. Another high-profile success story is the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner which has incorporated electrochromatic technology onto its passenger windows.
The building sector is potentially the highest volume market. There are still remaining challenges in this market however. In particular, smart glass windows are still over-priced and price parity will only be reached if global capacity utilisation reaches economies of scale in the range of 500,000 sqm, according to our detailed analysis of the cost structure and depreciation.
The commercial sub-segment of the building industry will be the early adopter here. This is because commercial buildings value iconic differentiations and, if managed well, cost savings may be realised on the basis of total cost of ownership. This segment is also growing in attractiveness as the glass content on commercial buildings is on the rise.
Most of manufacturing capacity is located in America however Europe will see more investments in the coming years since glass shipping is not cost effective and the European market uses larger glass formats than the American one.
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