Article last updated on: Feb 10, 2019

OLED is an emerging display and lighting technology that enables beautiful and efficient displays and lighting panels. Thin OLEDs are already being used in many mobile devices and TVs. Polymer-OLEDs (or PLEDs, also used to be called P-OLEDs) are OLED devices made from polymer (large-molecules) materials.

14-inch P-OLED prototype by CDT
14-inch PLED prototype (CDT)

PLEDs vs SM-OLEDs

Basically you can make OLEDs from two kinds of materials: small-molecule (SM-OLED) or large-molecules, or polymers. Virtually all OLED displays on the market toady are using Small Molecules, and are produced using evaporation processes.

PLED (P-OLED) materials do not perform as good as SM-OLEDs in terms of lifetime and efficiency, but are easily soluble and so can be easily adapted for printing and other solution-based processes. In the past some believed that the soluble nature of PLEDs mean that these materials will be the future of OLED displays, but that has not been the case yet. There has been great progress in evaporation processes and materials - and also in soluble SM-OLEDs.

CDT / Sumitomo

UK-based Cambridge Display Technology (CDT) is the company that holds the basic patents for PLED technologies. The company licensed its technology to several companies, including Philips, Seiko Epson, Osram, Dupont and Delta Optoelectronics, but it does not seem as it anyone is pursuing PLEDs at the moment besides Sumitomo Chemicals (which owns CDT).

Sumitomo and CDT are still developing PLED materials and panels. Sumitomo is providing emitter materials for JOLED (who started low volume production of printed OLED monitor panels in December 2017, see below) and is hopefully gearing up to start mass production of its own OLED lighting panels.

JOLED's PLED

JOLED (Japan OLED) was established in August 2014 by Japan Display, Sony and Panasonic with an aim to become an OLED medium display (10-30 inch) producer. JOLED is using a printing process which should result in lower cost production (but of lower performance displays) compared to evaporation printing.



JOLED is using PLED materials produced by Sumitomo (see above). The company started commercial low-volume production of its 21.6" 4K OLED panels towards the end of 2017 at the company's pilot 4.5-Gen line. JOLED has announced plans for a mass production 5.5-Gen line that will be established in Nomi City, Ishikawa Prefecture, by 2020.

Panasonic's 2013 56" OLED TV prototypes

In January 2013 Panasonic unveiled a 56" 4K (3840x2160) OLED TV panel prototype that was produced using an all-printing method and PLED materials. Panasonic says that all the organic materials were deposited using ink-jet printing. The panel's TFT substrate was supplied by Sony (and actually made by AUO. It's an Oxide-TFT panel) as part of the two companies collaboration. The lifetime and efficiency of this TV was not disclosed.

In December 2013 Sony and Panasonic announced that they are canceling the OLED TV JV. Panasonic is now producing OLED TVs - but these use WRGB OLED panels produced by LG Display.

PLEDs in the market

In the past, several PMOLED makers produced PLED based small-sized display modules, mostly alpha-numeric and single-color panels. As of 2018, PLED PMOLEDs are not in production any more.

P-OLED module by OSD

PLED PMOLED module (OSD)

P-OLED (PLED) vs pOLED

P-OLEDs, or PLEDs, are a class of OLED materials. Somewhat confusingly, LG Display is branding its mobile flexible AMOLED displays as pOLEDs (plastic OLEDs). For more information on LGD's pOLEDs, click here.

Further reading

The latest PLED news:

JOLED details their printing process and materials

JOLED (Japan OLED) was established in August 2014 by Japan Display, Sony and Panasonic with an aim to become an OLED medium display (10-30 inch) producer. JOLED is using a printing process which should result in lower cost production (but of lower performance displays) compared to evaporation printing.

JOLED/JDI OLED efficiency improvement chart (Jan 2017)

JOLED's R&D Division Manager spoke at the PF&E China conference a couple of weeks ago, detailing the company's process. JOLED is producing RGB-strip OLED panels using ink-jet printers made by Panasonic and PLED materials produced by Sumitomo. The OLED structure is based on Sony's technology and the backplane is a transparent amorphous oxide semiconductor.

Sumitomo to show their latest PLED lighting panels at L+B 2016

Sumitomo Chemical announced it will exhibit its latest PLED lighting panels at the Light+Building 2016 event next month. Sumitomo's booth's director is the world-renowned Japanese lighting designer Motoko Ishii.

Sumitomo OLEDs, 2014 L+BSumitomo OLEDs, 2014 L+B

Sumitomo will show a large OLED installation (five by five meters in size, and 3.6 meters high) that symbolises a garden in the sky and is named OLED JARDIN.

Kateeva and DuPont to jointly optimize soluble materials for inkjet printing

Kateeva and DuPont announced that they will co-develop solutions for ink-jet printed OLEDs - specifically they will optimize DuPont's soluble materials for Kateeva's inkjet systems. The two companies hope this collaboration will enable then to offer a simple and highly-effective OLED TV printing process.

This follows Kateeva's agreement with Sumiomo Chemical that aims to pair Sumitomo's PLED materials to Kateeva's YieldJet OLED ink-jet printing platform.

VTT researchers develop low-cost polymer OLED lighting deposition technology

Finland's VTT Technical Research Centre developed a new technique to deposit patterned OLED lighting elements on flexible plastic films. This could enable a low-cost process technology to make flexible light emitting structured films - which they see used mostly in advertisement campaigns.

VTT printed polymer OLEDs photo

The new room-temperature deposition technology uses standard traditional gravure and screen printing - which means it may be possible to use in regular printing houses. The process makes OLED lighting stripes which are 0.2 mm thick and uses polymer based OLED emitters.

UDC signs an OLED lighting material technology license agreement with Sumitomo

Universal Display and Sumitomo Chemical signed an OLED Technology License Agreement. UDC granted Sumitomo license rights to manufacture and sell solution-processed OLED lighting products. The agreement runs for the life of Universal Display’s relevant intellectual property rights.

Sumitomo OLEDs, 2014 L+B

Sumitomo aims to use UDC's technologies to increase the efficacy of their PLED lighting panels. The company will "explore business opportunities in lighting applications that take their printed polymer OLED technology to the next generation lighting”.

Kateeva and Sumitomo to pair PLED materials to Kateeva's ink-jet system

Kateeva and Sumiomo Chemical announced a non-exclusive key partnership to pair Sumitomo's PLED materials to Kateeva's YieldJet OLED ink-jet printing platform. The two companies hope this collaboration will lead to adoption of P-OLED inkjet printing by OLED TV makers.

Kateeva and Sumitomo will cooperate to co-develop high-quality reference data for customers, which will be optmized to Kateeva's platform and Sumitomo's inks.

OLEDNet: JOLED to use Sony's OLED technology and Panasonic's production fab

Last month Japan Display, Sony and Panasonic announced the formation of a new OLED company. JOLED, funded by the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, will be established formally in January 2015, and will focus mainly on medium sized OLEDs for tablet applications.

JDI 5.2-inch FHD OLED prototypeJDI 5.2-inch FHD OLED prototype

One of the key questions surrounding JOLED is the technology choice. While Sony (and JDI, which is basing its OLED program on Sony's tech) is using small-molecule OLEDs and an evaporation process, Panasonic based its OLED development on Sumitomo's PLED materials and printing technologies.

Panasonic to withdraw from the OLED TV market and sell its OLED business to JDI?

A report from Japan suggests that Panasonic decided to withdraw from the OLED TV business as production costs are too high for the Japanese company. According to the report, Panasonic hopes to sale its OLED business to Japan Display (an agreement is expected next month).

Panasonic curved 4K OLED prototypes at CES 2014

This report is not confirmed yet. It is rather surprising as Panasonic's OLED business is focused on TV panels, while Japan Display is producing small/medium displays. In the past few years, Panasonic focused on printing technologies using Sumitomo's PLED materials.

LunaLEC's new spray technology creates 3D LEC objects in air

In 2012 we posted about light-emitting electrochemical cells (LEC), a cheaper (but less efficient) flexible alternative to OLED lighting. Back then, three Universities (in Sweden and Denmark), involved with Polymer LEC (P-LEC) research, launched a company called LunaLEC to develop and commercialize the technology.

Now LunaLEC unveiled a new technology that can be used to fabricate 3D LECs in air using spray-spintering. This fault-tolerant fabrication technique can produce multi colored large-area emission patterns via sequential deposition of different inks based on identical solvents. The technique can also be used to deposit LECs on complex-shaped surfaces - for example the fork you see above. This is done in-air without the use of cleanrooms.