OLED (organic LED) technology holds great promise in lighting because the planar panels inherent to the technology deliver diffused light across the surface area, but manufacturing issues have stymied volume production. Partners General Electric (GE) and Konica Minolta (KM) claim to have solved the problem of mass production via a solution coating of materials that will enable the use of a roll-to-roll manufacturing line similar to those proven effective in the printing industry.
"We have produced high-performance white OLED lighting devices with a commercially viable lifetime using 'solution coating' rather than 'vacuum coating' processes, said Anil Duggal, GE's OLED lighting technology leader. "This allows us to make use of the high volume roll-to-roll manufacturing infrastructure that already has been perfected in the printing industry."
At the International Symposium on the Science and Technology of Light Sources just held in Eindhoven, Netherlands, the partners said they have produced white OLED panels that deliver 56 lm/W. GE plans to introduce a commercial product in 2011 based on the solution-based approach.
OLED lighting technology uses flexible transparent sheets of electrode material sandwiching organic material that illuminates when charge is applied. Most OLED development to date have relied on a vacuum-based batch process to apply the organic material to one panel at a time. The solution-based approach will apply the material as the base electrode sheet moves from a supply roll to a take-up roll.
John Strainic, global product general manager for GE Lighting, the business that will commercialize GE OLEDs, added, "This type of coating is ideally suited for roll-to-roll processing and critical to enabling the production of OLEDs at high speeds. In simple terms, this latest achievement means we're starting to see the OLED light at the end of the tunnel."
GE and KM began working together back in 2007 on OLED lighting technology. Last November, KM announced it was investing YEN 3.5 billion in a roll-to-roll coating line for pilot production of OLEDs. GE has demonstrated OLED lighting at a number of recent conferences including Light+Building and Lightfair International.