Innovation can help you print 3D OLED screens at home

You may not need to ship your devices (or buy replacement parts) if the screen breaks – you can simply create new screens. University of Minnesota Twin Cities Researchers developed what they say is the first fully 3D printed flexible OLED display. In theory, you wouldn’t need to rely on panels made in large and distant factories to build or repair your appliances.

The new approach combines two 3D printing methods to print the six layers needed for a functional display. The team used extrusion printing to make the electrodes, encapsulation, insulation and interconnections, while the active layers were spray-painted at room temperature. Previous attempts by several teams have either had problems with light uniformity (consistency across the panel) or relied on techniques other than 3D printing to put some components in place, such as spin coating or thermal evaporation.

The prototype was just 1.5 inches wide and used just 64 pixels. Any practical use would require much higher resolutions (a 1080p screen requires over 2 million pixels), and scientists also want to improve brightness. It may also take a while to adapt the technology for home use. The university used a custom 3D printer that costs as much as a Tesla Model S – it may take a while for the method to be viable on off-the-shelf printers, including high-end models like FormLabs, $4,850 3B+.

The very nature of the technology makes these goals relatively achievable​​and opens the door to countless possibilities if and when printed OLED displays at home are practical. In addition to do-it-yourself repairs, this can help you create homemade gadgets with custom screens. While this effort does not represent the democratization of technology manufacturing (after all, there are far more parts than canvas), it can reduce your reliance on companies’ pre-assembled components.

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