Here at HDTVTest, we have been wowed by the outstanding picture quality produced by OLED TV, what with its ability to deliver true blacks and bright whites owing to the technology’s self-emissive properties. However, the 55-inch OLED televisions currently available on the market – such as Samsung’s KE55S9C and LG’s 55EA980W – are prohibitively expensively, costing at least 3 times the price of a similarly-sized, high-end LED LCD display.
Cheaper OLED TVs may be on the horizon though, if the claims of a US startup called Kateeva are to be believed. The company has this week unveiled its revolutionary inkjet printing manufacturing solution dubbed YIELDjet, which has been engineered from the ground up to facilitate mass production of OLED televisions.
Inkjet printing is the ideal substitute for older OLED manufacturing technologies which are limited by vacuum evaporation techniques that employ shadow masks to do the patterning. Vacuum deposition/ thermal evaporation is a simple technique, and it’s certainly well-established, but it’s highly inefficient, hard to scale up, and can produce yield-killing particles. The alternative solution, inkjet printing, is thought to be the best replacement. Unlike vacuum evaporation, an inkjet-printed operation enables speed throughout the whole process, wonderful scalability, superb efficiency, and possibly better particle performance, too.
Inkjet technology has already proven itself in desktop printing applications, but it hasn’t been scaled up yet to make OLEDs on a mass level. Kateeva claims that it’s the first to come out with a workable solution that successfully tackles all the production challenges that TV makers face, doing away with horrible uptime performance, uneven reliability, non-uniform output, high particle levels, and bad process environment control.
One reason why prices of OLED TVs are sky-high at the moment is because manufacturers have struggled to extract decent yield rates from their production line. If Kateeva’s YIELDjet manufacturing process can improve yields and OLED panel lifespan as promised, then this may herald an era of more affordable (and hopefully flat) OLED televisions. In a couple of interviews with OLED-focused sites, Kateeva’s president Dr Conor Madigan claimed that the company’s technology can print out six 55″ OLED panels in 90 to 120 seconds, with enough precision for 4K resolution, and the potential of the manufacturing costs being 30% cheaper that LCD’s.