Startup printer development promises commercially viable bendable displays

August 14, 2014 // By Paul Buckley
Kateeva, a Californian startup company that has an exclusive license from MIT for an OLED deposition technology, has revealed plans to start shipping manufacturing equipment that could finally bring flexible displays to market.

Kateeva has pioneered an inkjet printing manufacturing equipment technology that enables OLEDs to be produced over large areas and in high volume – with longer lifetimes, higher yields and lower costs.  The startup's approach claims to solve key manufacturing challenges that previously prevented the well-proven inkjet technique from scaling to perform reliable, high-volume OLED printing.

The development should enable OLED producers of curved, bendable, and flexible displays, as well as large displays such as 55-inch TVs to use economically viable and production-worthy inkjet printing for low-cost mass-production of OLED displays.

In January 2013, Samsung demonstrated a flexible screen at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, USA which promised the potential for smart watches with displays that wrap around your wrist, or portable devices that can be folded up and popped in a pocket.

Subsequent to the event the prototypes did not prove durable enough to commercialise because of difficulties with sealing the OLEDs used in the display from water vapor and oxygen. This has been a major stumbling-block to the progress of printing OLEDs on flexible substrates, especially potentially-cost-cutting, high-volume "roll to roll" printing that OLED protagonists have long hoped for.

Kateeva has developed an inkjet printing process that claims to be to apply a protective coating to OLEDs far faster than previous methods. The development promises to cut manufacturing costs in half, and make it possible to integrate the process into existing production lines more easily.