Electronics

PrintDisplay: DIY displays and touchscreens anyone can print

PrintDisplay: DIY displays and...
Custom printed displays can make plants smarter, too (Image credit: Saarland University)
Custom printed displays can make plants smarter, too (Image credit: Saarland University)
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A printed display makes a dumb watch "smart" (Image credit: Saarland University)
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A printed display makes a dumb watch "smart" (Image credit: Saarland University)
Examples of DIY printed display uses (Image credit: Saarland University)
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Examples of DIY printed display uses (Image credit: Saarland University)
Custom printed displays can make plants smarter, too (Image credit: Saarland University)
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Custom printed displays can make plants smarter, too (Image credit: Saarland University)
The DIY display is less than a millimeter thick (Image credit: Saarland University)
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The DIY display is less than a millimeter thick (Image credit: Saarland University)
A printed matrix display (Image credit: Saarland University)
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A printed matrix display (Image credit: Saarland University)

For years now, we've been promised miraculous new flexible touchscreen displays, but the deployment of such technology in big consumer products, like say the LG G Flex, hasn't started any revolutions just yet. That could soon change thanks to a team of computer scientists from Germany's Saarland University who have developed a technique that could allow anyone to literally print their own custom displays, including touchscreens.

Using a regular inkjet printer equipped with a special ink, a DIY thin-film electroluminescence (TFEL) display can simply be printed out from a digital template of the desired size and shape using a program like Microsoft Word or Powerpoint.

"So far, nothing like this has been possible," says researcher Simon Olberding. "Displays were produced for the masses, never for one individual user."

However, the process – dubbed PrintScreen – is a little more complicated than simply pressing print in Word. The team has developed two methods using either screen printing techniques or off-the-shelf inkjet printers that can take anywhere from several minutes to four hours for a layman to create a custom display. The team claims that the results are "relatively high resolution displays" only one tenth of a millimeter thick. They say covering a standard printer page with a display layer would cost about €20 (US$21.69), mostly due to the cost of the special ink involved.

The DIY display is less than a millimeter thick (Image credit: Saarland University)
The DIY display is less than a millimeter thick (Image credit: Saarland University)

Printing a regular near-HD display could be just the beginning, though. The method can also utilize other materials like plastic, metal or wood as a two or three-dimensional base for display surfaces.

"With this method, we can even print touch-sensitive displays," says Olberding.

The team envisions DIY screens embedded in all kinds of personal objects, from furniture to clothing, or new, function-specific objects with their own custom displays.

"And if we now combine our approach with 3D printing, we can print three-dimensional objects, which are able to display information and respond to touch as well," says lead researcher Jürgen Steimle.

The technical details of the processes are available in an academic paper, or you can learn more in the video below.

Source: Saarland University

PrintScreen: Fabricating Highly Customizable Thin-film Touch-Displays

2 comments
Btr
One of the biggest problems with Electroluminescence devices like these, is the fact that it requires high AC voltage (>60V). Also the frequency of the AC waveform is in audible range, typically 200Hz - 4KHz.
Ablakeney
Touch screens are no longer the new wave of technology they're the norm. The ability to create personalized touch screen displays is incredible, and the applications are endless. I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years, near every sign and display, not only those in phones, are touch screen.