The technology of the panels that we find in the screens changes every year due to the birth of new and more efficient ways of reproducing images. In the market we can find OLED monitors, Smart TVs, mobile phones, tablets, etc. manufactured by trained technicians in large high-tech factories. Now, however, scientists have succeeded in 3D printing a flexible OLED screen, making firm strides so that one day small businesses and even individuals can do the same at home.
Flexible and fully 3D printed
The device has been created by a team from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, led by Professor Michael McAlpine and Ph.D. Ruitao Su. Although other groups of researchers have previously built partially 3D-printed OLED displays, they did so through more complex techniques such as thermal evaporation and spin coating. However, the display created by the University of Minnesota research team was fully 3D printed using a custom-built tabletop 3D printer that costs “about the same as a Tesla Model S.”
Recently the journal Science Advances published an article about the research and in the following video in time-lapse format you can see how the OLED screen printing process is.
A technology that will not be long in coming
The OLED screen is made up of a total of six layers that have been printed in two different ways using the same printer. ” Extrusion printing was used to deposit the interconnects, insulation and potting material, while spray printing (at room temperature) was used for the active layers.”
When finished, the screen is square in shape and measures around 38mm per side incorporating a grid of 64 light-emitting pixels. Upon testing, it continued to function over the course of 2,000 flex cycles, indicating that it may be suitable for use in wearables or other soft electronics.
The next step the researchers want to take is to increase both the resolution and brightness of this 3D-printed flexible OLED screen. In addition, you bet that this technology can be used in the real world relatively soon.
“The beauty of our research is that manufacturing is integrated, so we’re not talking 20 years ago with a ‘pie in the sky’ vision,” says McAlpine. “This is something we actually make in the lab, and it’s not hard to imagine that it could translate to printing all kinds of screens at home or on the go within a few years, on a small portable printer.”