Technology is accelerating at a tremendous speed. Every day we’re hearing about groundbreaking discoveries that make the life of humanity better than yesterday. Now, here comes another mind-blowing invention by researchers at the University of Minnesota.

 

Recently, scientists at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, US used a customized 3D printer to make flexible OLEDs(Organic Light Emitting Diode).

 

3D printing has many applications across several industries such as construction, medical industry, automotive, aerospace, and much more. 

 

This invention will pave the way for people who’re interested in making OLED at home.

When the printer reaches the market, no matter whatever you’re or what is your knowledge in technology, you can 3D print OLED displays in the home. 

All you need is a computer, a printer, inkjet sprays, and a surface or material where you want to print the OLED. 

 

This invention could result in low-cost OLED displays in the future and more advanced foldable smartphone and monitor displays.

OLED displays are very popular because of their high quality and power-efficient performance. Not only that, but also they’re lightweight, thin, and flexible.

 

“OLED displays are usually produced in big, expensive, ultra-clean fabrication facilities. We wanted to see if we could basically condense all of that down and print an OLED display on our table-top 3D printer, which was custom built and costs about the same as a Tesla Model S,” said Michael McAlpine, senior author of the study.

 

 

Even though the team has tried 3D printing OLEDs before, they struggled with the uniformity of the light-emitting layers.

Some groups around the world have printed OLEDs before. But have limited flexibility like foldable smartphones.

 

They were not lightweight and costly when compared to the new OLED which are 3D printed by the scientists at the University of Minnesota.

“The nice part about our research is that the manufacturing is all built-in, so we’re not talking 20 years out with some ‘pie in the sky vision. This is something that we actually manufactured in the lab, and it is not hard to imagine that you could translate this to printing all kinds of displays ourselves at home or on the go within just a few years, on a small portable printer,” said McAlpine.

 

3d printed oled
The fully 3D-printed flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display prototype is about 1.5 inches on each side and has 64 pixels. Every pixel works and displays light. The 3D-printed display is also flexible, which could make it useful for a wide variety of applications, such as foldable smartphone displays. Credit: McAlpine Group, University of Minnesota

 

In this new experiment by the scientists, the team combined two different methods of 3D printing to print the six device layers that resulted in a fully 3D-printed and flexible OLED. The prototype had 64 pixels and was about 1.5 inches on each side.

 

“I thought I would get something, but maybe not a fully working display,” said Ruitao Su, the first author of the study. “But then it turns out all the pixels were working, and I can display the text I designed. My first reaction was ‘It is real!’ I was not able to sleep, the whole night.”

“The device exhibited a relatively stable emission over the 2,000 bending cycles, suggesting that fully 3D printed OLEDs can potentially be used for important applications in soft electronics and wearable devices,” Su said

 

The researchers said that their next goal is to 3D print OLED displays that offer higher resolution with upgraded brightness. 

The fund for the research was mainly provided by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. The Boeing Company and the MnDRIVE (Minnesota Discovery, Research, and InnoVation Economy) were also funded for the research.

 

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