Celebrating engineering achievement
How Plastic Logic industrialised large-area printed organic electronics and catalysed the e-paper display market
Earlier this month we were pleased to learn that the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) — one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with over 168,000 members in 150 countries — had shortlisted Plastic Logic in its annual innovation awards.
Following over 300 entries from 25 countries in the 15 award categories, we were shortlisted for the manufacturing technology award in recognition of our achievement in industrialising large-area printed organic electronics to innovate the market for robust, flexible, plastic e-paper displays.
You may not realise it, but e-paper display technology has existed since the 1970s. However, the complexity and cost of manufacturing the technology at scale hampered its adoption for a long time. A decade ago the first glass-based (i.e. stiff) e-readers hit the market, but many more innovative applications have been restrained by the technology’s lack of mechanical flexibility.
Since its inception, Plastic Logic’s mission was to use emerging technologies to innovate the display market and industrialise a proprietary technology to cost effectively manufacture flexible e-paper displays. The objective being to make the technology more attractive and accessible to OEMs and product designers.
We’re hugely proud to have pioneered the full industrialisation of flexible organic electronics. Instead of using classical Si-semiconductor on glass processes, Plastic Logic alternates patterned metallic layers with printed thin-films of polymers on large-area plastic substrates to fabricate active-matrix organic-transistor-based flexible backplanes. These backplanes are coupled with a flexible display medium, such as electronic ink, to create an ultra-thin, lightweight, robust and fully flexible e-paper displays.
Using innovative manufacturing techniques, we’ve met the challenge of scaling-up the process, and can offer a plurality of formats and customised designs from 1.1” to 15.4” display sizes for multiple applications. Our technology is also currently being further developed to enable flexible sensor applications.
We’ve had to work in close collaboration with equipment suppliers to customise traditional equipment from the classical laser, flat-panel-display and printing industries to the specific needs of our processes. These same robust processes now create economies of scale and optimisations that bring the overall cost down for customers, making e-paper more compelling. While traditional glass-based displays are still cheaper, the overall value received in terms of differentiation, competitive advantage and end-user experience from flexible e-paper displays is making it seriously compelling in novel applications.
Our strategy to industrialise large-area printed organic electronics manufacturing to bring innovation to the display industry has certainly paid off. Our 3800 m2 ISO5/ISO6 clean room in Dresden is now producing many thousands of units each month. While the flexibility of our process creates infinite possible applications and has helped us to become one of the market leaders for flexible e-paper displays.
It’s great that respected international bodies like the IET are recognising our innovative engineering achievement and the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the journey of making it happen. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed until 15 November when the final winners will be announced at a ceremony in London.