With the aim of cutting the cost of manufacturing flexible and large-size OLEDs, Kateeva today debuted YIELDjet. This is the world’s first inkjet printer engineered from the ground up for OLED mass production. YIELDjet is designed to deliver dramatic yield improvements when compared to existing manufacturing technologies. This represents a real breakthrough solution to mass produce OLED devices more economically.
OLED Manufacturing Challenges
Existing OLED manufacturing has been constrained by vacuum evaporation techniques that use shadow masks for patterning. It’s a simple and well-established technique, but inefficient, difficult to scale, and prone to yield-killing particles. Inkjet printing is considered the ideal replacement. It enables speedy throughput, excellent scalability, high efficiency, and potentially better particle performance (by eliminating shadow masks).
While well-proven in desktop printing applications, inkjet technology has not yet scaled to mass produce OLEDs. Many companies have tried to make it work for OLEDs. Until now, however, no solution successfully tackles all of these production challenges: inadequate process environment control, high particle levels, non-uniformity, inconsistent reliability, and poor uptime performance.
YIELDjet is designed to overcome these difficulties and make inkjet technology the logical OLED mass production choice.
Presentation:YIELDjet Preso OLED.at
Key YIELDjet Features:
All this is made possible by the following technical achievements:
- Device Lifetime Extended. YIELDjet is the only platform to feature a production-worthy pure nitrogen process chamber. A smaller process enclosure speeds post-maintenance recovery and replacement of print heads without exposing the enclosure to air.
Nitrogen is considered the gold-standard process environment for OLEDs, and an essential device lifetime enabler. It shields OLED materials from moisture and air [known degraders of quality], and enables consistently superior device lifetime. Early data shows that with YIELDjet, device lifetime in certain applications more than doubles. For customers, this is the single most important device characteristic.
- Major increases in yield achieved. YIELDjet reduces particles by as much as 10X—thanks to specialized mechanical design features. Particle contamination is a guaranteed yield killer. By so dramatically reducing particle generation yield is dramatically improved.
- Great improvements in process reliability and uptime. YIELDjet offers exceptional film coating uniformity with a process window that’s 5X wider than standard technologies. This vastly improves process reliability and uptime and enables Kateeva systems to bridge the gap from small-volume R&D demonstrations to high-volume mass production.
The vision behind YIELDjet
Kateeva President and Co-founder Dr. Conor Madigan said: “YIELDjet was inspired by a simple vision: help display manufacturers realize the full potential of OLED technology so that their customers can enjoy and benefit from these dazzling new displays. YIELDjet delivers by using inkjet printing to crack difficult technical problems that made manufacturing flexible and large-size OLEDs challenging and costly. We’re encouraged by our customers’ interest, and we’re excited to be enabling this important display technology transition.”
55” OLED TVs debuted this year, fulfilling the promise of a spectacular viewing experience, albeit at a high price. Dr. Jennifer Colegrove President of California-based Touch Display Research, expects that 2016 will be the take-off year for OLED TVs. By 2020, she predicts that the market will reach $15.5 billion.
Meanwhile, the vision of wearable computing products is becoming reality thanks to the paper-thin, ultra-light characteristics of flexible OLEDs. This sector, in particular, is poised for trajectory, with IHS, Inc. predicting global market revenue for flexible OLEDs* to soar from $21.9 million in 2013 to $94.8 million in 2014.
OLED-display.net Q&A by Conor Madigan, Ph.D. Co-Founder & President Kateeva
You introduce YIELDjet and say in your press release that it is ready for OLED mass production. So some customers in Asia mass produce with Yieldjet large OLED panels with your system?
Customers are not yet using inkjet in mass production of OLED panels. YIELDjet is the first inkjet platform designed from the ground up for OLED mass production. We believe this platform will enable inkjet to finally make the transition from R&D into mass production.
Can you tell us your customers? Is this an exclusive partnership?
Sorry, strict Non Disclosure Agreements preclude us from naming customers or sharing details of specific customer partner agreements. However, our strategy is to supply equipment to all OLED manufacturers.
Is the Yieldjet technology only for large size OLEDs? or is the goal also to produce small/medium displays for smartphones/Tablet pcs?
YIELDjet is applicable to manufacturing any size of OLED panel. Our focus has been on two parts of the OLED production line: thin-film encapsulation (for flexible and ultra-thin OLED) and RGB OLED patterning. For thin-film encapsulation, customer interest is mainly in the small/medium panel size. For RGB OLED patterning, customer interest is mainly in the large panel size. However, we are seeing increasing interest in RGB OLED patterning for small/medium sizes as well.
Yieldjet reduces particles by as much as 10 “Specialized mechanical design” Can you explain this in detail?
At the highest level, the design of YIELDjet utilizes the best practices of the semiconductor wafer equipment industry (where extremely low particle contamination levels have been achieved) applied for the first time to an OLED printing system. This includes the use of frictionless bearings, closed-loop particle filtration, optimized gas flow to eliminate turbulence, and shielding of critical system elements. Kateeva has developed (and continues to develop) a strong IP portfolio around how to achieve ultra-low-particle printing.
LG Display use WRGB Samsung Display True RGB is your technology useable for both technologies?
YIELDjet is designed to enable true RGB with high scalability and yield at low cost, avoiding the compromises of WRGB (namely more complex device architecture, higher cost, lower brightness, and lower efficiency).
AUO/Sony showcased some printed UHD OLED Panel is this prototype with Kateeva technology?
We are not aware of a printed panel demonstrated by AUO or Sony. However, at last year’s CES, Panasonic demonstrated a printed panel. As noted earlier, we unfortunately can’t comment on whether or not any public panel demos were made with our equipment. 10x reduction in particles when compared to commonly used OLED production techniques.
Does Yieldjet need a special material? From Merck/Universal Display?
Printing requires OLED inks specially formulated for printing, and a number of companies (including those listed above) have been working for many years to develop these inks. To achieve good results, we work with various suppliers to cooperatively optimize ink, process, and equipment. However, to be clear, we make equipment, not ink. Our cooperation strategy is to help develop a strong ecosystem of reference inks and processes so that customers can quickly realize inkjet OLED mass production on our equipment.
Nitrogen is the ultimate OLED processing environment, early data shows that with Yieldjet device lifetime in certain applications more than doubles. What does that mean in hours?
Using the best red and green materials, LT50 lifetime of hundreds of thousands of hours are possible. And for the best blue materials, LT50 lifetimes of tens of thousands of hours are possible.
When will we see the first Kateeva printed prototype? When we will see the first production line with Yieldjet ready for mass production?
Kateeva has made a number of prototypes with customers, but unfortunately, we are restricted by our confidentiality agreements from sharing images or specs on these panels. Given how competitive the industry is, we suspect this will continue to be the case in the future.
Right now, it’s premature for us to talk of product shipments. And, of course, we can’t speak for customers on their production plans. But expect to hear more from us on products in the coming months.
What are the limitations in resolution? Is this technology UHD ready? What is the largest size?
YIELDjet can provide sufficient precision for 4K x 2K displays at the 31” size and up (e.g. ~120 ppi), and a G8 system (2500 mm x 2200 mm – large enough to fit 6 x 55” TVs) is under construction in our facility.We are also developing an approach for inkjet printing much higher resolution displays (e.g. ~400 ppi) for mobile applications on YIELDjet by using novel pixel layouts more tailored to inkjet,