OLEDWorks launches automotive brand

Jan. 19, 2024
Other than Audi, customer wins have been scarce for its OLED technology. Is that about to change? The company also takes a swing at micro LEDs in the car sector.

OLED specialist OLEDWorks has taken the next step in its slowly evolving move into automotive lighting, launching a new brand aimed at the sector while also recruiting partners to help it advance OLED technology for taillighting.

The Rochester, N.Y.–based company announced the Atala brand at the CES exhibition in Las Vegas last week.

OLEDs, or organic light-emitting diodes, are thin sheets of material that emit light in response to an electric current. They are thinner than lights made from LEDs, which are single points of light, although LED manufacturers have been finding ways to narrow down housings. The Atala section of OLEDWorks website implores the auto industry to “design the light, not the lens.”

Supporters of OLEDs claim other advantages over LEDs as well, such as softer, glare-free light as well as reduced energy in the blue spectrum that can impact various human health factors.

OLEDs have had limited, niche success as general illumination sources.  

One sector where OLEDWorks has made some strides in recent years has been automotive. The company provides taillights to German automaker Audi. The two companies began working together in 2019. In 2020, Audi started offering taillighting for its Q5 luxury SUV using OLED technology from an Asian supplier that it declined to identify

By November 2021, Ingolstadt-based Audi built OLED taillights as a standard feature into its A8 luxury sedan. While it would not confirm at the time that it was using OLEDWorks technology for the A8, by April of 2022 it became clear that OLEDWorks was indeed the supplier. Around that time, Audi was considering selling an OLED lighting service to Audi owners.

Audi’s OLED taillights allow the driver to chose from a number of different geometric patterns, or “signatures.” They also brighten as a trailing car approaches a stationary A8.

OLEDWorks has engineered its taillight technology to display symbols that indicate hazards such as ice or slowing traffic, although Audi has not confirmed it has embedded that feature (despite earlier reports that it has).

Other than the two-year-old win with Audi, OLEDWorks has not announced other commitments from an auto company or auto supplier.

By now launching Atala, it appears to be making a concerted effort to push further into the industry.

“With Atala, we are showcasing the best of OLED technology on the road today, along with technology advancements that are going to be on the road in the very near future,” said OLEDWorks CEO David DeJoy.

“The new Atala brand allows us to provide more focused attention to our automotive customers,” added director of marketing Kathleen Miller.

Atala is an acronym that stands for “advanced technology for automotive lighting applications.”

A frequently asked questions page on OLEDWorks’ Atala webpage states that OLEDWorks is currently offering only red light for Atala, with amber and white to come. The page also suggests that the company is developing OLED-based turn signals. OLEDWorks is also actively seeking development partners, via a “joint development” page featuring a “let’s talk” button. 

OLEDWorks downplayed any market threat posed by micro LEDs.

“Manufacturers are expressing doubt that micro LEDs will meet the performance requirements for automotive exterior and interior requirements due to stringent legal requirements, demanding environment (thermal, shock, vibration), and the high cost to align and assemble the requisite number of micro LEDs into a larger emitting area,” the OLEDWorks FAQ web page states.

Micro LEDs are a big part of the future for LED and photonics sensing solutions provider ams Osram, which hopes to sell them across many applications including automotive — an industry that has been a bright spot for ams Osram’s LED business. Prior to its acquisition by Premstaetten, Austria-based ams, Munich, Germany-based Osram was an early OLED partner of Audi’s, before exiting the OLED business.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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