A Review of the Opportunities and Processes for Printed Electronics (Part 5): The Future of PE

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Lightweight, flexible plastic substrates

OLED displays can be fabricated on flexible plastic substrates leading to the possibility of flexible organic light-emitting diodes in other new applications such as roll-up displays embedded in fabrics or clothing. Since substrates such as PET can be flexible, the displays may be produced inexpensively.

Wider viewing angles and improved brightness

OLEDs can enable a greater artificial contrast ratio (dynamic range and static, measured in purely dark conditions) and viewing angle compared to LCDs because OLED pixels directly emit light. OLED pixel colors appear correct and unshifted, even as the viewing angle approaches 90° from normal.

Better power efficiency

LCDs filter the light emitted from a backlight, allowing a small fraction of light through so they cannot show true black, while an inactive OLED element does not produce light or consume power.

Response time

OLEDs can also have faster response times than standard LCD screens. Whereas LCD displays are capable of response times between 2 milliseconds and 8 milliseconds, offering a frame rate of +/-200 Hz, an OLED can theoretically have a response time of less than 0.01 milliseconds, enabling 100,000 Hz refresh rates.

Many startups are involved in OLED displays. Universal Display Corp (UDC) is the only company purely focused on OLED display, but other OLED companies include Merck, Sumitomo, LG, Samsung, Philips, TDK and Osram.


Similar to display technology, OLED technology on flex and electrophoretic, electrochromic and electroluminescent display panels can create low power lighting. These panels can be flexible, foldable and built to include PE battery storage and PE PV to create electricity, resulting in a multi-tiered device to generate electricity, store electricity and provide low energy solid-state lighting.

The history of lighting technology efficiency can be seen in Figure 3. Incandescent lights have not changed much since Edison’s time, but solid-state lighting using LEDs and OLEDs has improved significantly since 2000 to nearly 200lm/W, nearly nine times more efficient.

Integrated devices/RFID/antennas

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a technology that uses communication with radio waves to exchange data between a reader and an electronic tag attached to an object for identification and tracking.


Figure 3: History of lighting technology efficiency.

RFID makes it possible to give each product in a grocery store its own unique identifying number and to provide assets, people, work in process, medical devices, etc., all with individual unique identifiers. RFID is like a license plate on a car, but can be used for every item in the world. RFID is a vast improvement over paper and pencil tracking or bar code tracking that has been used since the 1970s. With bar codes, for example, it is only possible to identify the brand and type of package in a grocery store. Passive RFID tags (those without a battery) can be read if passed within close enough proximity to an RFID reader. It is not necessary to show the tag to the reader device like showing a bar code to a bar code scanner. In other words, it does not require line of sight to see an RFID tag. The tag can be read from inside a case, carton, box or other container, and unlike barcodes, RFID tags can be read hundreds at a time. Bar codes can only be read one at a time.


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