Researchers from the University of Minnesota have successfully printed a flexible OLED display using 3D printing technology. It would theoretically be possible to build or repair gadgets without relying on panels made in remote factories.
Your devices might not need to be sent in (or you might not need to buy replacement parts) if the displays break – you could just make new screens yourself.
The six layers that are needed for a functional display are printed by combining two methods of 3D printing. In order to make electrodes, encapsulations, insulations, and interconnections, the team used extrusion printing, while active layers were spray-painted at room temperature.
Many previous attempts by various teams failed due to light uniformity issues (consistency across the whole panel) or employed techniques other than 3D printing to place some components, such as spin-coating and thermal evaporation.
There was just one inch of width on the prototype, and 64 pixels were used. In order for the technology to be practical, it would require much higher resolutions (a 1080p display requires over 2 million pixels), plus the scientists wish to improve brightness. Making the technology suitable for home use may also take time.
There is a chance that the method will take some time to become viable on off-the-shelf printers, including high-end models such as FormLabs’ $4,850 3B+ and other multi-thousand dollar models.
If and when home-printed OLED displays become practical, though, those goals are relatively accomplishable because of the technology’s inherent strengths. This could also be used to build customized screens for homebrew gadgets, as well as do-it-yourself repairs.
The effort may not quite constitute democratization of tech manufacturing (there are many more parts than displays, after all) but it could decrease your dependence on companies’ preassembled components.