€11.2-million European project to take flexible OLEDs from lab to fab

February 04, 2013 // By Julien Happich
A newly launched, €11.2-million European project aims to help bring flexible OLEDs to market within six years. The Flex-o-Fab project will create a pilot-scale manufacturing chain for flexible OLEDs, and use it to develop reliable fabrication / production processes.

Funded through the EU's 7th Framework Programme, the project will strengthen Europe's leading position in the lighting industry by making flexible OLEDs a commercial reality.

Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are a revolutionary new light source. Emitting light efficiently over a large area and in a wide range of attractive colors, they open up a world of new lighting possibilities. The first OLED products - rigid glass tiles- are already on the market. However, OLEDs also offer the exciting possibility of being produced on plastic films / foils to create flexible light sources. Flexible OLEDs would be more robust and could be produced at even lower cost than glass-based OLEDs. Moreover, they could be embedded into all kinds of everyday objects.

Flexible OLEDs have been successfully demonstrated on the laboratory scale by many groups. Now the Flex-o-Fab project aims to take flexible OLEDs from lab to fab by developing reliable processes for manufacturing OLEDs on plastic foils. To do this, the project will set up a modular yet integrated pilot production line and associated manufacturing chain.

Flex-o-Fab will draw on technologies and expertise already used to produce glass-based OLEDs and flexible displays. It will look to migrate existing sheet-to-sheet processes to roll-to-roll (R2R) production to further reduce costs and enable high-volume production. Where manufacturing processes don't already exist, the project will develop new solutions that are compatible with R2R production.

"This is an industry-led project that brings together companies and institutes with strong backgrounds in organic electronics from across Europe. They are all leaders in their respective fields whose knowledge and expertise complements each other perfectly - and we are keen to hear from other potential partners who can add to the mix," said Project Manager Flora Li of Holst Centre/TNO.

One of the key challenges in moving from glass-based to flexible devices is ensuring the sensitive OLED materials are well protected from the environment. Here the project will use a