Skip to main content

Bringing flexible organic electronics to pilot innovation scale

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PI-SCALE (Bringing flexible organic electronics to pilot innovation scale)

Reporting period: 2017-07-01 to 2019-06-30

Europe’s technology leaders in the development of flexible organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) for lighting and signage applications have joined together in a consortium to develop an open access pilot line that will accelerate the commercial adoption of this promising new technology. The project titled ‘PI-SCALE’ is creating a European-wide pilot line which will enable companies of all sizes to quickly and cost effectively test and scale up their flexible OLED lighting and signage concepts and bring them to a level where they are ready to be transferred to a mass production facility. The intention is that by increasing the availability of, and knowledge about, flexible OLED technology for companies that are interested in using it in their products, the pilot line will accelerate the uptake of this new technology and help to build a sustainable industry in Europe around flexible OLEDs. The project is supported by the European Commission through the Photonics Public Private Partnership with a contribution of €14 million. Flexible OLEDs have the potential to be integrated into formed parts or seamlessly bonded onto curved surfaces, and the commercialisation of this technology will open up a host of exciting design opportunities to create new value adding lighting products in many different application areas, such as architecture, automotive, aerospace, packaging, sports, retail, and consumer electronics. The technology allows for ultra-thin (<0.2 mm), highly bendable, very lightweight, and even transparent, energy efficient lighting solutions that can be made or cut to any shape or size. PI-SCALE will offer world class capability and services in the pilot production of customised flexible OLED product prototypes. The first prototypes to be made on the pilot line are focused in the areas of automotive, designer luminaires and aeronautics applications. Coordinated by Holst Centre, PI-SCALE brings together thirteen expert partners from five European countries and includes AUDI AG, Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), VTT, Fraunhofer FEP, M-Solv, FlexEnable, DuPont Teijin Films, REHAU, EMDE development of light, Pilkington, Coatema Coating Machinery and AMIRES. The PI-SCALE consortium combines and utilises existing capability from each of the partners to create a self-standing, open access European flexible OLED pilot line. The pilot line will be available during and after the lifetime of the project to companies on an open access basis, and the specialist infrastructure includes all the steps required to turn OLED lighting concepts into advanced product prototypes. Specialist flexible substrates, moisture barrier and electrode films, and sheet-to-sheet and roll-to-roll OLED devices are all included, as well as all the system-level integration steps to incorporate the flexible OLED films and the other flexible electronics needed into a product form. The pilot line is positioned to bridge the gap between R&D and mass production, offering small-to-medium scale pre-production runs of customised flexible OLED devices with a volume of up to 5000 m2 of OLEDs/year. By working with the pilot line, companies should be able to make important decisions about their final product design, test their concepts in up-scaled manufacturing processes, and have large numbers of product prototypes for testing (TRL7). They will also gain the required flexible OLED technology knowhow and supply chain links to transfer the product they have developed using the pilot line to a mass production facility.
PI-SCALE offers an independent, open access pilot line service that provides flexible OLEDs with customized features, supports the customer with designing product prototypes with system-level integrated OLEDs, and can supply flexible OLEDs in quantities that are large enough to allow customers to test pilot production of their new product concepts.
To achieve that, following activities were performed and results achieved during the course of the project:
• Infrastructure existing at the different partners has been revised for incompatibilities and pilot line process flows have been chosen to meet the end-user specifications, but also to meet expected specifications of future pilot line customers.
• The development of OLED processes in S2S as well as in R2R was successfully done.
• Hybrid R2R process was established, where the advantages of both process technologies, solutions processed and vacuum deposition, were combined. This led to the world wide largest demonstrator of a 15m long OLED stripe.
• The realization of intermittent slot die coating was shown.
• An effort has been made to introduce the consortium barrier substrate, laminated on a large area carrier, into a production of flexible OLED by a commercial OLED manufacturer.
• A roadmap of the pilot line has been defined and its operations is regularly monitored which enables, from the technical point of view, continuation of the pilot line after the end of the project.
• With the S2S and R2R offerings the four end-user of the pilot line could be served and allowed them to make their first flexible OLED product demonstrators.
• Apart from demonstrators developed in cooperation with the project end-users, different technology demonstrators were prepared to engage with customers:
o Bottle demonstrator
o Name Card demonstrator
o Automotive demonstrator – Transparent segmented multi-color HUD
o The Aerospace demonstrator
o Print and Packaging demonstrator
o Lighting demonstrator
• Following offerings were prepared for the three main types of customers (manufacturers for end-users, integrators, and material suppliers):
o Starter – ideal for concept validation
o Baseline – wider selection of colour, shapes and connectors for starting uniqueness
o Premium – fully customisable flexible designs which are specific and tailed for each individual application
• 124 events were attended in total, this included 45 exhibitions (with booth organisation) and 65 delivered presentations. 500 leads were attracted that led to 29 new customers obtained for the pilot line who signed 37 contracts which generated a substantial amount of revenues for the pilot line. These new customers were also served by the pilot line.
Progress beyond state-of-the-art:
• The highest performing single layer SiN R2R moisture barrier Worldwide - WVTR < 2.10-6 g/m2/day at 20oC/50% rel. hum., 0.03 pinholes/cm2 after 1000h at 60oC/90% rel. hum. has been made
• Largest flexible R2R OLED device made Worldwide: 30 cm x 1.8 m
• World wide largest demonstrator of a 15m long OLED stripe made.
• Unique flexible OLEDs with customised designs and colours made.

Results achieved by the end of the project:
• A self-sustaining flexible OLED pilot line established able to offer flexible OLED prototyping services with:
o Customised logos and pictures
o Customised shape & colour
o Optical transparency (up to 60%)
o Long dimensions >1m
o Active matrix and passive segmented flexible OLEDs
o System-level integration
• 4 launching customers served with customised product prototypes.
• 29 new customers ranging from SMEs to LEs served by the middle of 2019.

Potential Impacts:
• Help to establish a sustainable industry around flexible OLEDs by increasing access to, and awareness of, this technology, and bridge the gap between R&D and mass production.
OLED roll from regular R2R monitoring batch runs (30 cm wide web, 15 meters length made in each run)