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With the end of the year in sight, it's interesting to look back and review what has been new in the world of printed electronics in the last 12 months. This analysis is taken from the new IDTechEx Research report, "Flexible, Printed and Organic Electronics 2019-2029" covering the entire sector in great detail, based on analyzing the industry for over 15 years.
1. Printed OLEDs a reality
While printing has been used in manufacturing the thin film encapsulation layer of OLED displays for a number of years, it was only in December last year that JOLED of Japan brought to market the first inkjet printed active matrix OLED where the light emitters are printed. The 21.6 inch 4K display has a resolution of just over 200ppi.
While most investment in recent years in OLEDs has been in making OLEDs on plastic substrates as a stepping stone to flexible OLEDs, JOLED have targeted the tough prospect of printing the light emitters, seemingly to build a strong IP and know-how portfolio and potentially to license the technology to other display manufacturers in the future.
In August 2018, JOLED raised approximately $420 million from four new investors, including from auto parts maker Denso, materials company Sumitomo and equipment company Screen Finetech.
Their plan is to use the money to develop a larger gen 5.5 line with the aim to potentially transfer and license the process. JOLED recently signed an agreement with Panasonic and Screen Finetech to develop, manufacture and sell printing equipment for printing OLED displays.
To learn more, JOLED will be one of the presenting keynotes at this years Printed Electronics USA event on November 14-15, 2018.
2. Foldable displays a reality
IDTechEx predicted that the first foldable OLED displays would come to market in 2018, as covered in the report "OLED Display Forecasts and Technologies 2019-2029".
Several companies are in the running, including Chinese based Nubia, aiming to release a long thin OLED display in a wearable device in China this year. Samsung, Huawei and others are hot on their heels. Last week, Royole Corporation entered the fray, announcing their foldable OLED display in a smart phone product, called FlexPai.
The display is wrapped around one edge of the device, which can be unfolded to create a 7.8 inch screen. When it is folded, the display is sectioned into three screens - one on the rear, the front and a third on the side of the device. The company intend to start shipping the device in late December.
IDTechEx expect to see the launch of many products in 2019 using a foldable display. There will be an inevitable period of consumer assessment; creating a device with a completely new form factor and creating the best possible user experience for it is no easy feat, but it is certainly the future direction of consumer electronic devices.
Royole Corporation will also present on this device at the IDTechEx Printed Electronics USA event on November 14-15 in Santa Clara, USA.
3. Printing Hybrid Quantum Dot-OLED displays
In late 2018 Samsung is reported to be setting up a pilot manufacturing line for Quantum Dot (QD) OLED displays. This uses a blue OLED backlight and blue OLED light emitter for the blue pixel, with red and green QD color filters for the red and green pixels. According to one report the red and green QD materials will be inkjet printed with equipment supplied by Kateeva.
The display can combine the benefits of both worlds of OLED materials and quantum dots. IDTechEx also see this as a stepping stone to fully printed light emissive QD displays, which would impact the white OLED with LCD color filter approach deployed by others for TV.