Fully 3D-printed, flexible OLED display

Fully 3D-printed, flexible OLED display

Organic light-emitting diode or OLED display technology is made through the process of converting electricity into light by utilizing an organic material layer. These OLEDs are flexible and able to function as high-quality digital displays, particularly in both large-scale devices such as television screens and monitors. OLEDs can also be utilized in hand-held electronics including smartphones and tablets. Generally, this OLED display technology has been on the rise because OLEDs are lightweight, power-efficient, thin and flexible, and provide a wide viewing angle and high contrast ratio.

Senior author of the study and a University of Minnesota Kuhrmeyer Family Chair Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Michael McAlpine shared his team wanted to know if the OLED displays that are usually produced in big, expensive ultra-clean production facilities can also be created using a table-top 3D printer. After previously struggling in the methods when it came to 3D printing OLED displays due to the uniformity of light-emitting layers, the University of Minnesota research team then combined two different modes of printing to print the six device layers that compose a fully 3D-printed, flexible organic light-emitting diode display.

The resulting functional prototype was around 1.5 inches on each side and had 64 pixels that all worked and displayed light. For the electrodes, interconnections, insulation, and encapsulation, these parts were all extrusion printed while the active layers were spray printed using the same 3D printer. Ruitao Su, who was the first author of the study and a 2020 University of Minnesota mechanical engineering Ph.D., mentioned that the 3D-printed display, in addition to its flexibility, can be packaged in an encapsulating material which makes it useful for a wide variety of applications.


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