Researchers create flexible OLED display, first completely 3D-printed type

In a groundbreaking research initiative, researchers at the Twin Cities University of Minnesota used a custom-made printer for complete printing of a moldable organic light-emitting diode display. In the future, the discovery could lead to low-cost OLED displays that could be created extensively using 3D printers by anyone in domestic settings instead of by technicians in sophisticated microfabrication facilities.

The findings of the study is published in Science Advances.

Elaborately, the OLED display technology is based on converting electrical energy into light using an organic material layer. OLEDs function as high quality digital displays that can be used in flexible as well as large-scale devices such as monitors and television screens along with handheld electronic devices such as smartphones.

OLED displays are attractive due to their power efficiency, lightweight, and thinness and flexibility, and wide observation angle and high contrast ratio offering.

The production of OLED displays is usually undertaken in big, expensive, and ultra-clean fabrication units, stated one of the research associates. This was undertaken to observe if it could all be condensed down and print an OLED display on a table-top 3D printer, which was custom made and priced almost the same as Tesla Model S.

Previously, the group exercised efforts to create 3D printing OLED displays but faced challenges with uniformity of light-emitting layers. On the other hand, other groups printed displays partially but also depended on thermal evaporation or spin-coating to deposit certain components and fabricate functional devices.

The study involved combining two different modes of printing to print the six layers of the device that resulted in a fully 3D-printed, organic, flexible light-emitting diode display. The electrodes, insulation, interconnects, and encapsulation involved extrusion printed whilst the active layers involved spray printing using the same 3D printer at room temperature.