By Ivo Rutten, Head of Display Business – Strategy and Partnerships
Nine years ago, Philips’ OLED division was about to be shut down. The division no longer fit with the corporation’s strategic direction, but there were those of us who believed in this technology and what it could bring to the future of lighting and the world. We believed that under the right ownership it could become an important, transformative, and profitable business. I worked at Philips at the time and was tasked with closing the OLED division, but I managed to convince the CEO to find a new owner for it instead.
Dave DeJoy, the CEO of a determined U.S. startup comprised of the original OLED technology innovators, connected with me to express his interest. Together we developed an exciting vision: combine the entrepreneurial attitude and ingenuity of an American startup with the absolute precision of German engineering to accomplish something no other company had been able to achieve – rapid technology advancement for highly efficient, high-volume OLED production.
This was the first step toward the modern OLEDWorks company that we know today as the premier global manufacturer of OLED lighting technology.
OLEDWorks and the Philips Acquisition
On Christmas Eve in 2014, I proposed a compromise with the CEO of Philips: give me one month to find a legitimate offer to sell the business. I felt that the technology and world-leading production facility and team that we had carefully curated in Aachen deserved a chance to thrive.
By the end of January, against all expectations, I had six proposals on my desk to purchase the division, when I received a call from Dave DeJoy. OLEDWorks was interested in purchasing the Philips OLED division and combining it with their team of OLED technology experts and R&D facilities in Rochester, NY.
OLEDWorks was founded in 2010 by Dr. Michael Boroson and Dr. John Hamer, OLED technical experts from Kodak, and by Dave DeJoy, an experienced entrepreneur and pillar of the Rochester business community. The three co-founders were determined to build a team of OLED innovators capable of launching this technology into the global market while capitalizing on the wealth of technical knowledge found in Rochester, one of the optical hubs of the world.
As a result of this compelling proposal, OLEDWorks was chosen to acquire the Philips OLED division in April of 2015, along with the division’s intellectual property, state-of-the-art production facility in Aachen, Germany, and a core team of OLED business experts and technicians.
OLEDWorks today synthesizes the Rochester office’s innovative leadership and expert engineers from the original OLED technology innovation team at Kodak, with the precision, industrial process innovation, and state-of-the-art production of the Aachen facility. This unique combination sets OLEDWorks apart from other OLED manufacturers, allowing for unrivaled rapid product innovation and high-volume production.
German engineering is synonymous with premier quality, precision, and efficiency. The OLEDWorks manufacturing facility in Aachen, Germany is IATF 16949 and ISO 9001, 14001, 45001 certified and produces the top-performing OLED lighting products in the world. With full traceability via a factory MES system, our team can produce high-volume output with superior quality and robustness in every product.
While our Aachen team focuses on mass production excellence, our Rochester team is the heart of our research and development efforts. Capitalizing on the knowledge and experience gained from high-volume production in Aachen and decades of Kodak research, the Rochester team continues to push the boundaries of what is possible with OLED lighting, creating highly robust products with greater segmentation, new color options, and more design freedom to meet the needs of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
The success of this American and German collaboration was validated in 2021 with the release of OLEDWorks’ first product on the road in the taillights of the redesigned Audi A8. This was the first commercial vehicle to offer OLED lighting as standard equipment and proved the reliability and performance of OLEDWorks products for the highly regulated automotive industry.
The Future of OLEDWorks Production
I continue to research additional strategic partnerships and divisions for OLEDWorks, primarily focusing on expanding into new areas for commercialization, such as microdisplay and direct-view display as we continue to develop the display side of OLED technology. These partnerships are intended to put OLEDWorks on the map as a producer of specialized high-performance, high-brightness OLED display technology for a variety of applications.
OLEDWorks is an exciting organization that has been able to accomplish things that no one had expected. A great deal of this success can be attributed to the teams of both the Rochester and Aachen offices, and the vision and fearless ‘big thinking’ of our CEO, Dave DeJoy. OLEDWorks now has a track record for achieving impressive milestones through creativity, free thinking, and trusting relationships – and that excites me about our future.
As we expand our offerings for automotive lighting and micro- and direct view display applications, I am excited to see what comes next for OLEDWorks and our team.