Mass production of flexible OLEDs nears reality

Nov. 18, 2014
The R2D2 OLED research consortium in Germany has begun investigating production processes and technologies for manufacturing flexible and shapeable OLEDs, and California-based Kateeva has released an advanced OLED mass-production system.   

Two recent events have signaled that mass-production of flexible organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) may be reaching a critical point. First, the R2D2 OLED research consortium in Germany has begun investigating production-processes and technologies for manufacturing flexible and shapeable OLEDs, and California-based Kateeva has released an advanced OLED mass-production system.

Funded for two years at 5.9 million euros by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), R2D2 will help develop piece and roll-to-roll manufacturing technology, according to consortium leader Christian May of the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP (Dresden, Germany). May says, “The advantages and disadvantages of these manufacturing concepts as well as possible synergies will be identified. Current challenges of the OLED such as durability, efficiency, and homogeneity of the luminance will be addressed at the same time.”

According to the Consortium, lighting manufacturers such as OSRAM have already established pilot fabrication capacity for lighting-OLEDs on rigid glass substrates; however, significant penetration of the general lighting market can only be achieved if the high production costs for OLED lamps can be reduced and new fields of application and design can be developed.

The Consortium includes companies in the entire value chain from materials research, plant construction, and component technology, to application studies for future products. Development activities will be based on results from members R2Flex, So-Light, and TOPAS2012 for organic electronics; lighting manufacturers such as OSRAM and OLED GmbH; and end users such as AUDI AG, Hella KGaA Hueck & Co, and Diehl Stiftung & Co. KG.

Kateeva advances OLED manufacturing system

In a related announcement, Kateeva (Menlo Park, CA) introduced its YIELDjet FLEX, a mass-production manufacturing system for flexible OLEDs. The first system will ship later this month to a customer in Asia. The YIELDjet FLEX tool was developed to enable Thin Film Encapsulation (TFE), which is the process that gives thinness and flexibility to the OLED device. It is the first product to emerge from Kateeva’s YIELDjet platform, a precision deposition technology platform that uses inkjet printing to deposit coatings on complex applications in volume-manufacturing environments.

According to market research firm IHS (NYSE: IHS), following Samsung's introduction of the first flexible OLED products in 2013, demand is expected to grow by more than a factor of four in 2014, with sales reaching nearly $100 million.

Sources: Fraunhofer FEP and Kateeva

About the Author

Conard Holton | Editor at Large

Conard Holton has 25 years of science and technology editing and writing experience. He was formerly a staff member and consultant for government agencies such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and engineering companies such as Bechtel. He joined Laser Focus World in 1997 as senior editor, becoming editor in chief of WDM Solutions, which he founded in 1999. In 2003 he joined Vision Systems Design as editor in chief, while continuing as contributing editor at Laser Focus World. Conard became editor in chief of Laser Focus World in August 2011, a role in which he served through August 2018. He then served as Editor at Large for Laser Focus World and Co-Chair of the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar from August 2018 through January 2022. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, with additional studies at the Colorado School of Mines and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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