18.02.15

Inkjet-printing to speed up mass-production of OLED displays

One of the major stumbling blocks to OLED display adoption - manufacturing costs - could soon be removed according to MIT offshoot Kateeva. It has developed an 'inkjet printing' system for OLED displays (based on years of Institute research) that could cut manufacturing costs enough to pave the way for mass-producing flexible and large-screen models.

Kateeva aims to "fix the last ‘Achilles’ heel’ of the OLED-display industry — which is manufacturing,” says Kateeva co-founder and scientific advisor Vladimir Bulovic, the Fariborz Maseeh Professor of Emerging Technology, who co-invented the technology.

Called YIELDjet, Kateeva’s technology platform is a massive version of an inkjet printer. Large glass or plastic substrate sheets are placed on a long, wide platform. A component with custom nozzles moves rapidly, back and forth, across the substrate, coating it with OLED and other materials — much as a printer drops ink onto paper.

An OLED production line consists of many processes, but Kateeva has developed tools for two specific areas — each using the YIELDjet platform. The first tool, called YIELDjet FLEX, was engineered to enable thin-film encapsulation (TFE). TFE is the process that gives thinness and flexibility to OLED devices; Kateeva hopes flexible displays produced by YIELDjet FLEX will hit the shelves by the end of the year.

The second tool, which will debut later this year, aims to cut costs and defects associated with patterning OLED materials onto substrates, in order to make producing 55-in screens easier.

By boosting yields, as well as speeding up production, reducing materials, and reducing maintenance time, the system aims to cut manufacturing costs by about 50 per cent, says Kateeva co-founder and CEO Conor Madigan. "That combination of improving the speed, improving the yield, and improving the maintenance is what mass-production manufacturers want. Plus, the system is scalable, which is really important as the display industry shifts to larger substrate sizes," he says.