Paper-like displays made entirely of plastic may soon be mass produced, thereby lowering the cost of electronic devices such as laptops, cell phones and other electronic devices.
HP and the Flexible Display Center (FDC) at Arizona State University (ASU) have developed the first prototype of low cost, flexible electronic displays using HPs SAIL Technology.
The robust paper-like computer displays are mostly made of plastic making them easily portable whilst also consuming less power than displays available today. The process used to make the displays uses up to 90 % less materials by volume than conventional methods.
The unbreakable displays created by the FDC and HP use self-aligned imprint lithography (SAIL) technology invented in HP Labs, HP's central research arm.
SAIL works by forming thin-film transistor electronics on a flexible substrate that is coated using a roll-to-roll process with all of the thin films required for the devices. The multiple patterns needed to create the backplane are impressed onto different heights of the masking structure. By alternately etching the masking structure and the thin film stack, the patterns are transferred to the device layers.
The current method of creating thin-film transistor arrays relies upon costly photolithography like that used to create most silicon chips. It also requires an expensive aligning process.
SAIL does not need alignment because all of the patterning information is imprinted on the substrate as a single three-dimensional masking structure, which moves with the substrate, perfect alignment is maintained regardless of process induced distortion.
Eliminating both photolithography and the alignment process could significantly reduce the cost of active matrix backplane manufacturing.
The displays also use Teonex® Polyethylene Naphthalate (PEN) substrates from DuPont Teijin Films and E Inks's Vizplex™ technology which enables images to persist without applied voltage, thereby greatly reducing power consumption for viewing text.
Field trials soon
The army also has a co-operative agreement with the FDC and has so far invested nearly $44 million. There interest is in flexible displays that can be folded up, have very little weight and won't break thus allowing the military to send greater information to soldiers and replace many of the bulky devices that they currently carry. Providing instantaneous information to the most remote locations is important and Army researchers at FDC believe displays could be in field trials with soldiers as early as 2010 or 2011.
The flexible display market is expected to grow from $80 million in 2007 to $2.8 billion by 2013 say some industry analysts.
For more attend Printed Electronics Europe 2009.
References: HP, FDC