Researchers develop first fully 3D-printed, flexible OLED display


CATEGORY: Prototypes

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities used a custom printer to 3D print a flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display.

The discovery could lead to low-cost OLED displays in the future, which could be widely produced by 3D printers by anyone at home, rather than by technicians in expensive microfabrication facilities.

OLED display technology is based on the conversion of electricity into light by a layer of organic material. OLEDs function as high-quality digital displays, which can be made flexible and used in both large-scale devices, such as TV screens and monitors, and handheld electronic devices, such as smartphones. OLED displays have gained popularity because they are lightweight, energy-efficient, thin and flexible, and offer a wide viewing angle and high contrast ratio.  

The group had previously tried to 3D print OLED displays, but had problems with the uniformity of the light-emitting layers. Other groups partially printed the displays, but also used spin coating or thermal evaporation to deposit certain components and create functional devices.

In this new study, the University of Minnesota research team combined two different printing modes to print the six device layers that resulted in a fully 3D printed organic light-emitting diode display. The electrodes, interconnects, insulation and encapsulation were extrusion printed, while the active layers were spray printed using the same 3D printer at room temperature. The prototype display measures approximately 1.5 inches on a side and has 64 pixels. Each pixel functions and displays light.


The 3D printed display is also flexible and can be packaged in an encapsulation material, which could make it useful for a wide variety of applications. The researchers say the next steps are to 3D print higher resolution and brighter OLED displays.

The research has been published in Science Advances, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

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