MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (07/01/2022) – In a groundbreaking new study, researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities used a custom printer to fully 3D print a flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display. The discovery could result in low-cost OLED displays in the future that could be produced widely using 3D printers by anyone in the home, rather than by technicians in expensive microfabrication facilities.
The research is published in Scientists progress, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
OLED display technology is based on converting electricity into light using a layer of organic material. OLEDs function as high-quality digital displays, which can be made flexible and used both in large-scale devices such as TV screens and monitors as well as in portable electronic devices such as smartphones. OLED displays have gained popularity because they are light, energy efficient, thin and flexible, and offer a wide viewing angle and high contrast ratio.
“OLED displays are typically produced in large, expensive, ultra-clean manufacturing facilities,” said Michael McAlpine, Kuhrmeyer Family Professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and senior author of the study. “We wanted to see if we could essentially condense it all and print an OLED display on our tabletop 3D printer, which was custom built and costs about the same as a Tesla Model S.”
The group had tried 3D printing of OLED displays before, but they were struggling with the uniformity of the electroluminescent layers. Other groups partially printed screens 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 device’s six layers, resulting in a flexible, fully 3D-printed organic light-emitting diode display. . The electrodes, interconnects, insulation and encapsulation were all printed by extrusion, while the active layers were spray printed using the same 3D printer at room temperature. The prototype screen measured approximately 1.5 inches on each side and had 64 pixels. Every pixel worked and displayed light.
“I thought I would get something, but maybe not a fully functional display,” said Ruitao Su, the study’s first author and a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 2020. .a graduate who is now a postdoctoral researcher at MIT. “But then it turned out that all the pixels were working and I can display the text I designed. My first reaction was “It’s real! I couldn’t sleep all night.
Su said the 3D printed screen was also flexible and could be wrapped in an encapsulating material, which could make it useful for a wide variety of applications.
“The device exhibited relatively stable emission over 2,000 bending cycles, suggesting that fully 3D printed OLEDs have the potential to be used for important applications in soft electronics and portable devices,” said Su.
The researchers said the next steps are to 3D print OLED displays with higher resolution with improved brightness.
“The good part of our research is that the manufacturing is fully integrated, so we’re not talking about 20 years with a ‘pie in the sky’ vision,” McAlpine said. “It’s something that we actually made in the lab, and it’s not hard to imagine that you could translate that into printing all kinds of screens ourselves at home or on the go on the go. just a few years, on a small portable printer. “
In addition to McAlpine and Su, the research team included mechanical engineering researchers from the University of Minnesota, Xia Ouyang, postdoctoral researcher; Sung Hyun Park, who is now a senior researcher at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology; and Song Ih Ahn, who is now an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Pusan National University in Korea.
The research was funded primarily by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health (Prize # 1DP2EB020537) with additional support from the Boeing Company and the Minnesota Discovery, Research, and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) initiative. via the State of Minnesota. Portions of this study were conducted at the Minnesota Nano Center, which is supported by the National Science Foundation through the National Nano Coordinated Infrastructure Network (NNCI).
To read the full research paper titled “Flexible 3D Printed Organic Light Emitting Diode Displays,” visit Scientists progress website.
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