Organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) have seen applications in television panels, mobile devices and related visual media. Now VTT Ltd. is looking to broaden those markets to include packaging using its cost-reducing roll-to-roll printable technology.
Markus Tuomikoski, a senior research scientist at VTT Ltd. of Finland, responds to Packaging Digest’s questions about the company’s technology for creating light-emitting diodes printed using organic materials onto film and the potential applicability of these OLEDs for packaging.
Summarize your research in flexible, low-cost OLED applications.
Tuomikoski: VTT is developing fully roll-to-roll printable polymer light-emitting diode (OLED) technology. This enables novel form factor, multicolor display and signage applications for cost-sensitive high-volume products. VTT's flexible and emissive printed OLED technology enables a lean and agile production of custom shaped and sized display and signage elements at low operating and capital equipment costs.
How does it work?
Tuomikoski: OLED technology is based on electroluminescence, as it occurs in an organic semiconductor. In OLED, an organic, light-emitting semiconductor is placed between two electrodes, at least one of which is transparent, letting out the light created in the structure. When conducted through the component, electric current produces light.
What makes this approach unique?
Tuomikoski: VTT's unique approach to OLED manufacturing promotes freedom of design. Printing as a manufacturing method enables fabrication of custom shaped and sized patterns of light; for example these can be used for illuminating pictograms, numerals and other characters. VTT's proprietary manufacturing process uses conventional printing methods to deposit multiple layers of material, including a light-emitting polymer on a flexible plastic or glass substrate.
What's the current status? And what shortcomings is VTT looking to improve?
Tuomikoski: The manufacturing of OLED technology has been proven in a roll-to-roll production facility. The performance and stability, in terms of brightness and lifetime, is foreseen to improve.
Also, there is a huge demand for better water and moisture barrier films for improved device encapsulation.
What packaging-related applications are possible?
Tuomikoski: Potential short and medium term application opportunities comprise of an interactive packaging and point-of-sale products, smart cards and smart labels, and consumer electronics and interior design products. The long-term application vision for the OLED technology is to enable cost-effective realization of emissive, flexible and wide-area display and signage elements for communication and architectural illumination.
For instance, a brand promotion by introducing eye catching blinking light generated from the OLED film, which is integrated into the label of product or point-of-sale display unit.
The brand promotion in any ways is proven to increase the sales. Similar machinery can be utilized for printing of graphics and OLEDs.
I foresee growing interest in packaging as the technology develops.
What can you say about costs for these kinds of applications?
Tuomikoski: The estimated price of printed OLED film is 300 euros per square meter*, which is far lower than glass-based OLED prototypes on the market.
[*Ed. Note: That equates to less than USD $30 per square foot]
Tuomikoski: Now OLED technology is widely used in mobile phones and televisions. During 2016, you can see more OLED lighting installations in museums, shopping centers, restaurants, for instance. Brand promotion using OLED film is coming in the near future.
You can read more about this technology at the VTT website.