OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) are light emitting panels made from organic (carbon based) materials that emit light when electricity is applied. OLED are used today to make beautiful and efficient displays and large, efficient and beautiful lighting panels.
An OLED 'light bulb' is a thin film of material that emits light. OLED is the only technology that can create large "area" lighting panels (as opposed to point or line lighting enabled by LEDs and fluorescent bulbs). OLEDs can be used to make flexible and transparent panels, and can also be color-tunable. OLEDs emit beautiful soft diffused light - in fact OLEDs lighting is the closest light source to natural light (with the exception of the old incandescent lamps).
The OLED lighting market
OLED is an amazing technology for lighting - it creates beautiful, efficient and healthy light sources. OLED lighting has great promise but unfortunately the high price of production is a challenge that no one has managed to overcome and OLED lighting remains a small niche industry as of 2019.
In the early years, several large lighting makers (including GE, Philips, OSRAM, Panasonic, NEC and others) had active OLED lighting programs, but slowly almost all of these companies dropped out of the market - for various reasons - but the main one being that the large investments in large scale production are not certified to lead to market adoption and the competition with LED lighting is extremely difficult.
There are several companies that still develop and produce OLED lighting panels, but the production volume is still small and most makers target niche markets such as the automotive, health and premium designer markets. Some makers are also offering OLED lamps - click here for our OLED lamp listings.
Konica Minolta built the world's most advanced OLED fab - a Roll-to-Roll flexible OLED lighting fab - that has a capacity to produce a million flexible and color-tunable OLED panels each month. The Japanese company recently announced that it shipped 15,000 flexible OLEDs to a Japanese Tulips Festival - by far the largest OLED installation to date, but real mass production at that fab is yet to be achieved as Konica Minolta still faces technical challenges and constant reorganization.
The latest OLED lighting news:
Ten Germany-based companies established a new OLED lighting alliance, called the "OLED Licht Forum" that aim to develop and promote OLED lighting technologies through dialogue and expert exchange. The forum will also organize conferences, lectures and institution visits.
The forum was founded by OLEDWorks, OSRAM, Merck, BASF coatings, EMDE, Fraunhofer, Hema electronic, Irlbacher, APEVA and WALO-TL. One of the first activities will be to create an OLED showroom in Germany that will be open to the public.
OLEDWorks announces two new OLED lighting panels, the rigid Lumiblade Brite 3 panels and the BendOLED flexible ones.
The Brite 3 OLEDs are more efficient than OLEDWorks' current Brite 2 OLEDs, offering an efficiency of up to 85 lm/W. The brightness is 300 lumens (8,500 cd/m2) and the lifetime is 100,000 hours (L70, at 100 lumens). The Brite 3 OLEDs are available in two colors and offer a CRI of >90. The Brite 3 are offered in three product shapes: square, rectangle and round. These Lumiblade panels will be produced at OLEDWorks' Aachen production site.
In early 2017 LG introduced its Crystal Sound OLED technology, which vibrates a flexible OLED display panel and turns it into a speaker. This technology can create seamless OLED TV designs that do not require speakers.
In a very natural move, LGD announced today that it will bring the Crystal Sound technology to its OLED lighting panels as well. LGD will unveil the first OLED lighting speakers at the Light and Building tradeshow next week in Germany. You can see a couple of such lighting speaker designs above.
In April 2017 OLEDWorks announced its roadmap for 2018-2020, stating that it will released 80-100 lm/W flexible panels in 2018. It seems that the company indeed started producing flexible curved OLED panels, even though it did not announce this officially.
Germany-based producer WALO-TL announced it will present two new OLED lighting lamps (the WALOSUMMER and WALOSPRING) - and both use a range of panels made by OLEDWorks, including curved rectangular panels. In addition, OLEDWorks published the following image on its instagram feed, showing an RGB Studio lamp that uses what seems to be the same panels.
Japanese lighting designer Motoko Ishii is the art director of Sumitomo's booth and is showcasing several OLED chandeliers, including the OLED MINORI you see above. Motoko Ishii has been working with Sumitomo for a while now.
Lumiotec to stop producing OLED lighting panels next month to focus on performance enhancements and plan its future business
Lumiotec announced that on March 31st if will stop producing its OLED lighting panel, to "plan the further performance enhancement of the product" and to plan its future business. Lumiotec will continue to offer its panels (series P06, P09, P11 and P13 panels) while stocks last.
Last month Japan's V-Technology announced it will acquire Lumiotec, which is likely what is behind Lumiotec's decision.
Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) says that OLED material revenues grew 43% to reach $869 million in 2017. DSCC expects the OLED material market to grow at a 24% CAGR until 2022, when the market will reach $2.56 billion.
The small/medium display market accounts to about 59% of the total OLED material market, and this will continue until 2022. For the TV market, DSCC expects ink-jet printing to enable producers to make lower the material costs of OLED TV production, and OLED TV materials will grow at a rate of 23%, from $344 in 2017 to $963 million in 2022.
V-Technology to start producing next-generation OLED fine metal masks, acquires OLED lighting maker Lumiotec
V-Technology announced that it is establishing a new organic electronics subsidiary that will develop a next-generation OLED deposition technology that V-Technology refers to as fine hybrid mask (FHM). Total investment in this new company is estimated at 5 billion Yen ($46 million USD) for the next 2-3 years. The facility is scheduled to be completed in August 2018 and V-Technology will start shipping mask samples in October 2018.
V-Technology's FHM is based on an electroforming method and the masks have a non-tension structure. V-Technology says that the total mask weight will be one tenth of current regular FMM masks, which will lower bending dramatically. V-Technology's already demonstrated an FHM that achieves 738 PPI.
Lighting and electronics developer Hella says that it provided a comprehensive lighting package for the Audi A8, developed in collaboration with Audi - including the OLED rear lights.
The Audi A8 2018 (which is now available) uses four small vertical OLED modules on each side, each with what seems to be 6 different structured panels, a large red one and five yellow ones which form the turn indicators.
Germany launched a new project led by Merck to develop quantum materials as light emissive sources. The three-year project is called "Exploration of quantum materials – New paths to realizing innovative optoelectronic components" (ELQ-LED) and it is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and led by Merck with an aim to conduct basic research on quantum materials as light emitting sources. ELQ-LED is a three-year project that will end on the summer of 2020.
Merck hopes that ELQ-LED materials will enable ultra-pure colors, higher energy efficiency and lower production costs compared to current OLED emitters. The focus of this project will be on cadmium-free quantum materials but the partners will also develop supporting components, processes, transport materials and ink. All components developed in this project will be printable, and the project will test its developments in display prototypes and automotive tail light demonstrators.