Published at The Rochester Beacon
Last week I posted an overview of Kodak’s enduring legacy in the Rochester economy, particularly as reflected in firms still active in the region with some kind of Kodak connection. I found that about 8,500 Rochester-area residents currently work for one of these firms (including 1,350 still employed by Kodak)…
In an interview with the Beacon, Kodak’s longtime chief technology officer, Terry Taber, singled out organic light-emitting diode technology as one he’d wished to retain within Kodak. Supporting his perspective, Rochester is home to several companies building products and expanding intellectual property around OLED.
The first diode emitting light in the visible spectrum was developed by a researcher at General Electric in 1962 and was based on semiconductor wafers made of inorganic compounds. In the 1970s and 1980s, Kodak explored the use of organic materials for light-emitting diodes, culminating in a 1987 discovery by Kodak scientists Ching Tang and Steven VanSlyke.
Philips was the first to produce a commercialized OLED light panel. Kodak had matched this in pilot line testing but had not commercialized the technology. Kodak had commercialized the first active matrix OLED display (AMOLED), however, demonstrating its value on digital camera screens and Kodak’s wireless picture frame.
Kodak’s financial challenges spurred the sale of many of the company’s assets in the late 2000s. Kodak’s OLED division was sold to LG for $100 million in 2009, although Kodak retained access to the intellectual property. LG then formed Global OLED Technology (GOT).
OLEDWorks was founded in 2010 by two OLED pioneers from Kodak, Michael Boroson and John Hamer, plus David Dejoy, managing partner at DeJoy, Knauf & Blood. In 2011 it licensed the former Kodak patent portfolio from GOT. By 2015 the company was able to purchase Philips’ OLED division, including both Philips intellectual property and its manufacturing facility in Aachen, Germany. The union of experts from Kodak and Philips has positioned OLEDWorks as an industry leader in OLED lighting.