OLEDs begin making their move

One of the many interesting aspects of the Consumer Electronics Show was the emergence of organic LEDs. OLEDS are starting to expand their reach beyond cell phones, which could mean significant changes in all sorts of displays.

They may also change the way some products are manufactured. OLED displays can be produced with a range of printing techniques on a range of materials including thin plastics. Samsung and others showed a handful of TVs, notebooks and tablet systems that they plan to move into production.

That’s a big step for OLEDs, which have been limited to the tiny screens of cell phones. Market analysts feel that large OLEDs are poised for takeoff.

DisplaySearch predicts that OLED TVs will generate $2 billion in revenue in 2016, coming somewhat close to the $3 billion it predicts for cell phone usage that year.

Those cell phones provide a huge infrastructure base for a technology that’s moving into many areas. It will be quite a while before automakers certify the technology’s ruggedness, but concept vehicles like the Cadillac XTS are using OLED gauges and center stack controls.

Costs are closing in on lighting alternatives, at least in cell phones. An iSuppli teardown of Nokia’s N85 phone pegs the OLED cost at $7.05, compared to $6.50 for an LCD of equivalent size and resolution.

General Electric, which has done a lot of work on manufacturing, predicts that roll-to-roll printing and potentially cheaper materials will make OLEDs cheaper than LEDs. How, and if, OLED production technologies will impact the circuit board industry remains to be seen. But there’s potential for some synergies. Whether or not that happens, it’s likely that OLEDs will have transformed a portion of the electronics industry by the end of this decade.

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