3D Printing

World-first OLED display is both flexible and fully 3D-printed

World-first OLED display is bo...
The current prototype incorporates a grid of 64 light-emitting pixels
The current prototype incorporates a grid of 64 light-emitting pixels
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The current prototype incorporates a grid of 64 light-emitting pixels
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The current prototype incorporates a grid of 64 light-emitting pixels

Presently, OLED screens are manufactured by specially trained technicians in large high-tech factories. Now, however, scientists have managed to 3D print a flexible OLED display, paving the way for small businesses and even individuals to one day be able to do the same thing themselves.

The device was created by a team at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, led by Prof. Michael McAlpine and PhD graduate Ruitao Su.

Although other groups have previously constructed partially 3D-printed OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays, those teams also relied on more complex techniques such as thermal evaporation and spin-coating. By contrast, the U Minnesota display was entirely 3D printed, utilizing a custom-built tabletop 3D printer that cost "about the same as a Tesla Model S."

The display is made up of six layers, which were printed in two different fashions – both by the same printer. Extrusion printing was utilized to deposit the interconnects, insulation, and encapsulation material, while spray printing (at room temperature) was used for the active layers.

The proof-of-concept finished product takes the form of a square display measuring about 1.5 inches (38 mm) per side and incorporating a grid of 64 pixels, each one of which emits light. It continued to work over the course of 2,000 bending cycles, suggesting that it may be well-suited to use in wearables or other soft electronics.

McAlpine, Su and colleagues now plan on increasing both the resolution and the brightness of the display. They believe that the technology could make its way into real-world use relatively soon.

"The nice part about our research is that the manufacturing is all built in, so we're not talking 20 years out with some 'pie in the sky' vision," says McAlpine. "This is something that we actually manufactured in the lab, and it is not hard to imagine that you could translate this to printing all kinds of displays ourselves at home or on the go within just a few years, on a small portable printer."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Science Advances. The printing process is demonstrated in the video below.

Fully 3D-Printed OLED Display - Timelapse

Source: University of Minnesota Twin Cities

3 comments
3 comments
Eddy
Now here's a worthwhile invention, not for me at the cost of a Tesla 3 but could be used to contract prototype jobs by a shop used to small jobs.
mikewax
never seen a printer print through a syringe needle before, but i could print that kinda resolution on a cheap $300 printer. Not the spray masking stuff, but ya hardly need a 3DP to do that. I'm definitely gonna look into this, the prospects are enormous.
EH
Why use 3D to print 2D? Slower, more expensive, way worse resolution, and a tiny, useless end product. Then the product life is likely low, too - OLEDs took several years to get decent longevity, IIRC the early prototypes lasted for days before oxygen and water vapor would get through barrier films, and this looks like a prototype. Wake me when they can do roll-to-roll production with >0.25 mm pixels at square meters per minute and a product life of years.