Researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed the first flexible OLED display printed entirely on a 3D printer. In theory, this means that we will soon be able to print OLED TVs at home and will not rely on panels made in large, remote factories, whose transport delays them and makes them more expensive, said Milen Ganev, partner in the Bulgarian software company E-Card which is in the top 50 of Europe.
The new approach combines two methods of 3D printing to form the six layers needed to create a functional display, according to a publication on the university's website. The team used extrusion printing to make electrodes, encapsulation, insulation and interconnections. The active layers are applied by spray at room temperature. Previous methods have included techniques that are not applicable outside special laboratory conditions such as centrifugation or evaporation of certain substances at very high temperatures, Milen Ganev explained.
The prototype, created using the new technology is small and has only 64 pixels. Any practical use would require much higher resolutions (a 1080p display consists of over 2 million pixels). In addition, scientists want to improve the brightness, said Milen Ganev from E-Card. But it will take some time for the method to adapt for home use. Still, the break through is promising. The university has used an industrial 3D printer, which is large and expensive, but scientists believe that their method will soon become viable with ready-made undersized printers.
One application of the technology would be to self-repair available OLED displays at home. In addition, the method can help people around the world create home gadgets with custom screens, said Milen Ganev. Although this effort is only a small part of the so-called democratization of technological production, it is an important step towards reducing consumer dependence on pre-assembled components offered by companies.