MIT boffins have developed a method to slash the cost of producing OLED screens by using inkjet printing techniques.
MIT spinout Kateeva has developed an “inkjet printing” system for OLED displays that could cut manufacturing costs enough to pave the way for mass-producing flexible and large-screen models.
Kateeva co-founder and scientific advisor Vladimir Bulovic, the Fariborz Maseeh Professor of Emerging Technology, who co-invented the technology said it removes the barriers to wider adoption of OLED technology which are all related to the expensive process.
Dubbed YIELDjet, Kateeva’s technology platform is a giant inkjet printer. Large glass or plastic substrate sheets are placed on a long, wide platform. A component with custom nozzles moves rapidly, back and forth, across the substrate, coating it with OLED and other materials — much as a printer drops ink onto paper.
Another tool, which will debut later this year, aims to cut costs and defects associated with patterning OLED materials onto substrates, in order to make producing 55-inch screens easier.
Kateeva co-founder and CEO Conor Madigan claims that by boosting yields, as well as speeding up production, reducing materials, and reducing maintenance time, the system aims to cut manufacturing costs by about 50 percent.
The system is scalable, which is really important as the display industry shifts to larger substrate sizes, he said.
IDC figures have noted that the printing market in Western Europe has returned to growth with commercial markets leading the charge, and laser shipments grew yearly by 11.6 percent.
Inkjet shipments remained flat, increasing a smidgen at 0.1 percent for Q2 2013 compared to the same time last year. Multi function printers impacted on the inkjet market.
Overall, the market increased 4.3 percent to 4.69 million units in Q2 2013 compared to the same time last year, but strong competition meant a 3.3 percent drop in dollar value for the market. Most market growth can be attributed to laser products, and IDC believes this demonstrates a returning confidence on spending in business markets. Laser printers and MFPs experienced double digit growth.
Colour products enjoyed the most growth at 17.3 percent, with share in A4 and A3 segments for both printers and MFPs increasing.
Monochrome printing did grow 10.1 percent but the A3 market here continued a decline.
Business inkjets increased yearly by 22.5 percent but inkjets for plebs contracted. High speed inkjets grew a formidable 57.1 percent.
The British market declined overall year on year by three percent, with continued declines in consumer inkjets. But there were signs of hope in the laser markets, increasing 16.9 percent year on year, and apart from A3 products there was growth across all segments.
Businesses were buying inkjet printers in the UK too, growing at 25.6 percent – compared to consumer inkjet spending which declined 11.3 percent.
It is starting to look like inkjets are going the way of the Dodo and the Rubik’s Cube.
Figures from Context show that all-in-one inkjet sales in the UK slid 11.8 percent by volume in 2012. That figure is better than the rest of the EU where all-in-one inkjet sales fell by 14 per cent.
Wireless versions of InkJets are doing slightly better because they are popular in homes and small offices because they can be located easily, connecting to multiple devices without cabling.
As you might expect, HP is still the leading vendor of wireless all-in-one inkjets, although Epson and Canon are doing a little better. However, the InkJet market has been looking shaky for a year.
In August Lexmark announced that it was pulling out of the market completely. Lexmark made its name on the “flog a cheap printer make your money back on the ink” model which was pioneered by HP. The fact that it left the market was seen as the beginning of the end. If Lexmark could kill off an entire business, unit sales numbers must have been dramatically bad.
Other companies have been seeing the writing on the wall for about three years. Consumer inkjet sales were proving so bad that it was better to try and flog the technology to corporate. Epson spent a fortune on its WorkForce high-end inkjets and did OK. HP, which has pitched its products to the business market for years, should have been doing fine too.
However, HP CEO Meg Whitman blamed part of the company’s recent and dismal earnings announcement as a steep decline in HP printer sales. She said that this lack of interest from consumers meant HP was going to de-emphasise products for lower-end customers. It seems business customers are no longer that interested either.
It is not quite so clear why the inkjet market has been so completely gutted. There have been moves to claim that the low end market and the consumer space have become completely paperless. Pictures which once would have been printed are now saved and shared across the net. Hard copy is less likely to be needed.
Some of that might be true, but the cost and quality of laser printing has also dropped. Cartridges require filling less often and are frequently cheaper than inkjets. Mostly it is because in the consumer market inkjet sales were tied to PC sales. Cheap inkjets were often sold as packages with PCs.
It also might indicate that there was a gradual realisation among consumers that inkjets really are a waste of cash in the long term. While the high-end inkjet technology was good, particularly for photographs, most of the great unwashed would not pay over £250 for a decent inkjet with all the sub-$100 models floating around. The cheap and nasty machines poisoned the market for the others.