OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) is a flat light emitting technology, made by placing a series of organic thin films (usually carbon based) between two conductors. When an electrical current is applied, light is emitted. OLEDs can be used to make displays and lighting, with possible applications that span TV sets, computer screens, mobile phones, decorative lighting and more. Since OLEDs emit light they do not require a backlight and so they are thinner than LCD displays, and are also more efficient, simpler to make and boast a better color contrast.

While OLED displays excel in color-contrast and efficiency compared to LCDs, they’ve also proven relatively hard to produce on a large scale. Current evaporation-based production techniques involve a lot of wasted material and risk of defects. OLEDs are also extremely sensitive to moisture and oxygen and therefore must be protected with a high performance encapsulating layer. All of these issues hinder OLEDs’ market takeover, but much work is put into resolving them.

OLED ink-jet printing

Current OLED producing methods rely on evaporation processes, in which the organic materials are deposited onto a glass sheet through a thin metal stencil, also known as a "shadow mask”. This process is problematic, as a significant amount of the material is wasted because it disperses all over the mask, in addition to inherent mask changes which expose the sheet to dust and compromise yields (OLEDs are by nature sensitive to contamination).

Inkjet OLED printing has the desirable ability to allow precision deposits without the use of a mask. It also produces less stray particles, thus boosting yields. These significant advantages make this technology interesting to many companies and virtually all OLED makers have active ink-jet printing development projects.

Inkjet methods form films by discharging the required amount of organic material onto large glass substrates in regular atmospheric conditions. This could be done, for example, by placing OLED pixels on glass or plastic using a portable platform and nozzles. Such methods have the potential to increase yields and lower prices, thus enabling OLED technology to take its deserving place in the market.



Unfortunately, OLED inkjet printing is not yet common, as printing OLED displays is a relatively challenging task for many reasons. A number of layers need to be deposited in pixels (the size of the pixels themselves is defined by the overall resolution the display will have). Being able to place the right number of drops of the active materials into the pixels is a challenge, in addition to developing a process in which the ink dries to deliver flat films of materials in the pixel.

Despite major progress, it is maintained that soluble OLED materials (required for inkjet printing) are less effective than evaporable ones. Ink-Jet printing is also not able to reach the same high densities of evaporation OLED production, which limits its applications for large-area production (TV panels) and not small mobile, VR and wearable OLEDs.

Ink Jet printing is still not used in any commercial OLED display production. But progress in past years have been rapid and some believe that initial OLED TV production using ink jet printing may begin in 1-2 years.

Latest OLED ink jet printing news

DSCC: OLED materials to grow at a 20% CAGR to reach $2.25 billion in 2022

Nov 17, 2017

DSCC released a new market report which tracks the OLED materials market. According to DSCC's estimates, the OLED material revenues will reach $905 million in 2017 and will grow at a 20% CAGR to reach $2.25 billion in 2022. Note that these numbers do not include royalty payments.

OLED Materials sales forecast (DSCC 2016-2022)

DSCC sees the small/medium display materials growing at a 22% (from $586 million in 2017 to $1.56 billion in 2022) - and growing faster than OLED TV materials (CAGR 16%) as ink jet printing, which will begin to be adopted in 2020 will result in more efficient OLED deposition.

DSCC: Ink-Jet printing could lead to 17% cost reduction in 55" OLED TV production

Oct 27, 2017

LG Display currently produces all its OLED TV panels using an evaporation (VTE) process. Market research company DSCC says that ink-jet printing is more efficient than current VTE processes as it will result in simpler displays (no need for color filters, for example, as used by LG's current WRGB displays). Ink-Jet printing will also enjoy lower depreciation costs and lower indirect expenses such as water and electricity.

55'' OLED TV cost evaporation vs Ink-Jet (DSCC, 2017)

DSCC estimates that an ink-jet printed 55" OLED TV panel will cost 17% less to produce compared to a VTE produced panel. An ink-jet printed panel will theoretically be significantly brighter (as the color filters absorb a large portion of the light), however solution-based OLED materials have traditionally lagged behind evaporation ones (Merck though says that the latest soluble materials are on-par with evaporation ones).

OLED for VR and AR Market Report

OrelTech develops a low-cost low-temperature printed electronic process

Oct 20, 2017

OrelTech Konstantin Livanov photoOrelTech is an Israeli-based early stage company that commercializes a unique printed electronics technology based on novel conductive ink and production process.

OrelTech's Head of R&D, Konstantin Livanov, was kind enough to explain the company's technology and business. Dr. Livanov received his PhD in chemistry from Weizmann Institute of Science, and his expertise is in surface chemistry, nanomaterials, composite materials and electron microscopy.

Q: Hello Dr. Livanov, thank you for your time. First, can you explain ORELTech's process and technology?

Sure. We are doing conducive ink for advanced applications in printed electronics. The advantages of printed electronics are obvious: drastically reduced manufacturing costs due to simpler equipment, fewer fabrication steps and shorter throughput time. However, most organic devices, including OLEDs, are not printed. We could however print them if we could print metal layers at low temperatures. Right now most of them are assembled or deposited in high vacuum.

JOLED seeks $900 million in funding to start mass printing OLED displays

Oct 04, 2017

As we just posted, Japan Display has decided to halt its plans to turn its minority stake at JOLED into a majority one, and so JOLED is now seeking external financing to support its plan to start mass producing OLEDs in 2019 at the JDI plant in Nomi, Ishikawa (which currently makes LCDs, but will be shut down towards the end of 2017).

JOLED 4K prototype OLED Monitor (July 2017, Japan)

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, JOLED aims to raise 100 billion Yen (almost $900 million) from Japanese companies, and it has already approached Sony, Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon and Sumitomo. If this plans fails JOLED may turn to foreign companies, including Chinese ones.

CPT aims to start mass producing QD-LED displays within 2 years

Sep 26, 2017

Taiwan-based Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) says that it is developing Quantum-Dots displays (QD-LEDs) produced using a printing process. CPT says that QD-LEDs offer pure-colors, long lifetime and are more efficient and stable compared to OLED displays.

Q-LED presentation slide (CPT, September 2017)

CPT hopes that a printing process will enable low cost QD-LED displays. CPT's Material Technology Division manager estimates that the major obstacles have already been overcome - although the performance of quantum dots is still lacking and CPT is continuing to research and develop QD materials. CPT estimates that it could start mass producing QD-LED displays within two years.

UDC reports excellent Q2 2017 results, progresses on blue

Aug 04, 2017

Universal Display reported excellent financial results for Q2 2017. Revenues increased 59% (compared to Q2 2016) to $102.5 million, with material sales increasing 110% to $46.8 million. Net income increased $25.4 million to $47.2 million.

UDC PHOLED materials photo (2017)

UDC has $380 million in cash and equivalents, and is on the lookout for opportunities to use this money. UDC also increased its guidance for 2017 to be in the range of $285 million to $300 million.

UBI Research sees PECVD as the in-organic TFE equipment of choice for flexible OLED production

Jul 29, 2017

UBI Research says that as OLED makers are diverting all efforts into flexible OLED production, thin film encapsulation (TFE) is gaining in popularity. Between 2017 and 2021, TFE will be applied to about 70% of all OLED panels in production. The OLED encapsulation equipment market will generate $11 billion in sales.

PECVD oled encapsulation market share (UBI, 2017-2021)

TFE encapsulation started out as a complex technology that required 11 layers and was slow and expensive. Recent advances allowed OLED makers to reduce the number of layers to just 3 and increase productivity and yields and so lower the production costs. Some film OLED makers opted for hybrid encapsulation (which uses a barrier film) but TFE seems to have become the technology of choice.

Guangzhou New Vision demonstrates its latest flexible and foldable OLEDs

Jul 24, 2017

China's Guangzhou New Vision demonstrated its latest flexible and foldable AMOLED displays at SID DisplayWeek. According to the company in the video below, these displays will enter production in 1.5 years.

As can be seen in the video, the company is developing flexible OLEDs with a resolution of 400 PPI on oxide-TFT backplanes and Polyimide substrates. New Vision also develops printing technologies (for both OLED and QLED displays, interestingly) - but these are still in an early stage, it seems.

UDC accelerates its OVJP R&D, shows how the process works

Jul 07, 2017

Universal Display recently announced that it is accelerating OVJP R&D, and the company is looking to commercialize this technology with partners. UDC expects it to take a few years before OVJP can really be deployed in production. The company published the video below that shows off the technology and explains the basic principles and advantages.

OVJP stands for Organic Vapor Jet Printing, and the basic idea is to use a gas-stream based process that resembles ink-jet printing but one that uses evaporation OLED materials which outperform soluble ones. In an OVJP process, the OLED materials are evaporated into a carrier gas that delivers them to a jet engine for direct printing of patterned OLED layers. OVJP is intended for large-area OLED displays and can be scaled up to 10-Gen substrates according to UDC.

Sumitomo Chemical starts to promote P-OLED materials and printers for OLED display production

Jul 06, 2017

Sumitomo Chemical acquired CDT back in 2007, and since then the Japanese company has been developing it's P-OLED (polymer-based OLED) materials and technologies. While initially Sumitomo aimed to produce materials for displays, in recent years it has focused mostly on OLED lighting materials and even panel production.

Touch panel production fab, Sumitomo

A noted exception was Panasonic's OLED TV development project which used printing technologies and Sumitomo's P-OLED materials. But Panasonic terminated this project in 2013. We speculated that JOLED, which is based on Panasonic's technology (and other technologies as well), uses P-OLED materials in its prototypes, but we were not sure.