PORTLAND, Ore. General Electric will begin volume production next year for flexible, paper-thin lighting panels. GE said it will print organic light-emitting diode (OLED) semiconductors on flexible polymer substrates, then encase them in ultra-high barrier coatings.
The market for organic printed electronics is forecast to grow $300 billion by 2028, according to IDTechEx Inc. (Cambridge, Mass.). The wide diversity of architectural, industrial and consumer applications for its flexible OLED lighting panels prompted GE to recently sponsor two design courses at the Cleveland Institute of Art, which explored the range of applications.
Some of the most promising student designs, according to GE, include under-shelf lighting for retailers, flexible signage for advertisers, illuminated stairs for buildings, light-up wallpaper for decorators and illuminated safety clothing. See a video of student design here.
By using its roll-to-roll manufacturing capability for OLEDs on inexpensive flexible substrates, GE claims it can both decrease manufacturing costs and increase design flexibility. GE also claims its ultra-high barrier coatings will protect the flexible OLED material as well as the stiff glass panels traditionally used to protect the delicate, printed organic devices.
The collaborative effort resulted in hundreds of student designs, many of which GE engineers are currently developing into commercial products at its Nela Park design center in Cleveland and its Global Research Center (Niskayuna, N.Y.).