You may not need to send your devices to (or buy spare parts) if the screen breaks – you can create new screens yourself. Researchers of the twin cities of the University of Minnesota are developed what they say is the first fully 3D printed flexible OLED display. In theory, you would not have to depend on boards made in large, remote factories to build or repair your gadgets.
The new approach combines two 3D printing methods to print the six layers required for functional display. The team used extrusion printing to make electrodes, encapsulation, insulation, and interface, while the active layers were spray-painted at room temperature. Past attempts by different teams have had problems with light uniformity (consistency across the board) or have relied on techniques outside of 3D printing to put some components in place, such as centrifugation or thermal evaporation.
The prototype was only 1.5 inches wide and used only 64 pixels. Any practical use would require much higher resolutions (a 1080p display requires more than 2 million pixels), and scientists also want to improve the brightness. It could also take some time to adapt the technology for home use. The university used a custom 3D printer that costs as much as one Tesla model S – it could take some time for the method to become viable on commercially available printers, even including high-end models such as FormLabs’ 4850 USD 3B +.
The very nature of technology makes these goals relatively achievable, however, and opens the door to many possibilities if and when OLED screens printed at home are practical. On top of the do-it-yourself fixes, this could help you create home gadgets with custom screens. While this effort doesn’t exactly represent the democratization of technology production (it still has a lot more parts than screens), it could reduce your reliance on pre-assembled company components.
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