innovation

Faster roll-out of flexible displays enabled by SALDtech

27 March 2019 • 3 min reading time

Yes, telephones with flexible displays do already exist. At the moment, however, producing display screens with the requisite flexibility is still a costly and time-consuming affair. That’s why Eindhoven-based start-up SALDtech is building machines that can produce flexible screens much more quickly and cost-effective, powered by TNO technology.

Care to know more?

Would you like to know more about SALDtech? Then please get in touch with Huib Heezen.

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The thinner the layers of OLED displays, the easier they are to bend. But how do you make these layers ultra thin and, at the same time, strong and affordable enough and suitable for mass production? TNO has been working on a solution to this problem at the Holst Centre in Eindhoven for more than ten years. This has ultimately led to a completely new technology: Spatial Atomic Layer Deposition (SALD).

Between 50 and 100 times faster

“Its speed is primarily what makes this technology such a breakthrough,” says Huib Heezen, CEO of Holst Centre/TNO spin-off SALDtech. “The SALD technology enables us to produce a number of essential layers for OLED display screens as much as 50 to 100 times faster than traditional ALD. This is due to the use of plasma, which adds extra energy and accelerates the deposition process accordingly.”

“If they use our machines, material wastage will be a thing of the past”

“Our method is, moreover, considerably cheaper than that currently used to manufacture flexible displays,” Heezen adds. “This is chiefly because, with the traditional method, manufacturers can sometimes only use half of the material produced. If they use our machines, that wastage will be a thing of the past.”

Made in Holland

Eindhoven-based SALDtech is going to build the machines that manufacturers will need to apply the innovative production method for flexible displays. The start-up obtained the licence for the necessary technology from TNO last year. TNO is one of SALDtech’s shareholders and is, furthermore, closely involved in the further development of the technology.

Questions from the production managers

Have a lot of orders already come in? “I wish they had,” Heezen laughs. “In this industry, a technology must prove itself in every possible way before a new machine is actually included in a production line. So we’re preparing for the first pilot projects this year. We are now building a small machine that display manufacturers can test.”

“We are now building a small machine that display manufacturers can test.”

“If that all goes well, we will have to deal with the production managers. They ask totally different questions, such as: how do you operate the machine? Will it keep working? How often will it have to be opened up for repairs? How often will maintenance be necessary? Our discussions with them will be quite different from those with the Research & Development staff.”

Scaling up at the right speed

“Our display technology has the potential to become really big,” he continues. “But the challenge is to scale up at the right speed. We also have to ensure that we have enough service engineers in the Asian countries, where the majority of our machines will be installed, later on. We must be able to deliver spare parts there promptly, too.”

“There are so many advantages to our technology that it will even become an attractive option for the production of OLED displays that are not flexible”

Foldable and roll-up display screens

In the first instance, manufacturers will mainly use SALDtech’s machines for the production of devices with flexible or foldable display screens or even display screens that roll up completely. But that’s not all, according to Heezen. “There are so many advantages to our technology that, in time, it will even become an attractive option for the production of OLED displays that are not flexible. Once manufacturers incorporate our machines into production lines for devices with flexible display screens, they will undoubtedly begin to question the production methods used for traditional display screens. Then we’ll be able to conquer that market as well. At least, that’s what I hope.”

Saldtech is a start-up from the TNO Tech Transfer program. TNO brings high-quality innovations to the market faster through their Tech Transfer program and translates its applied research into practical solutions for society and business.

Are you an entrepreneur or investor and are you interested in the innovative power of TNO then contact Hans Boumans of Tech Transfer.

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