The automotive sector is one area where OLEDs have been introduced. Taillights have been an area of emphasis for OSRAM, which has developed prototypes for leading automakers such as Audi and BMW. In 2016, these efforts have come to fruition, as the Audi TT RS and BMW M4 GTS feature OSRAM’s OLED lights. OSRAM is now the first automotive OLED (as taillight) supplier worldwide.
OSRAM has a lengthy background in OLEDs, beginning in 1996, when OSRAM and its then-parent company Siemens began research into OLEDs, forming its OLED display business segment at Siemens Semiconductors (later OSRAM Opto Semiconductors). The OLED pilot line was ramped up in 2011 in Regensburg, Germany. In 2013, Siemens spun off OSRAM, and in 2014, OSRAM OLED GmbH become a daughter company of OSRAM.
OSRAM’s long history with the major automotive manufacturers helped smooth the introduction of OLED taillights into the Audi and BMW models.
“OSRAM is market leader in automotive field,” said Cong Wang, marketing manager, products, applications and marketing for OSRAM OLED GmbH. “We have a long partnership with OEMs and Tier Ones, and now we are the first company that is able to supply OLED for automotive applications.”
The BMW M4 GTS taillights have a total of 15 OLEDs per tail light and a brightness of 1.200 cd/m2, providing excellent visibility. The Audi TT RS consists of four OLED panels and a brightness of 1,000 cd/m2.
Wang said that freedom of design is a key advantage for OLEDs.
“OLED lighting allows for unique 2D and 3D light shapes that are incredibly thin and uniform while requiring less space in an assembly than traditional lighting,” Wang noted. “The OLED light shapes can be divided into several segments and controlled independently, creating dynamic sequences highlighting different brightnesses and adding dimensionality.”
Cars and trucks face harsh environments, such as extreme temperatures, moisture, oil and salt. That has been a challenge that ORAM has overcome.
“The challenge is to meet the specifications on reliability to environmental stress.,” Wang observed. “This has been proven in extensive development and robustness evaluations programs.”
While OLEDs are now just appearing in taillights, there are plenty of opportunities within the car itself for creating lighting designs.
“OLED is considered the next evolutionary step in automotive lighting and can be used both inside and outside the car,” Wang said. “We expect significant growth in the next years.”
Meanwhile, OSRAM’s engineers and designers are collaborating with partners throughout the automotive supply chain to create new developments. One such example is the R2D2 project, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), which is focused on flexible OLEDs for the automotive segment. OSRAM is partnering with Fraunhofer FEP, Audi AG, Diehl Aerospace GmbH, Hella KGaA Hueck & Co., Novaled GmbH and VON ARDENNE GmbH, and reports much progress.
“We are working to make flexible OLED automotive qualified, in order to give our clients more design freedom,” Wang added.
Wang said that the reaction from drivers has been exceptional.
“The feedback of the drivers is that the people notice the differences, and they are curious. It is a real eye catcher,” she added.