OLED Considerations

I’m designing an OLED module from Matrix Orbital into a product - it’s my first OLED and I have questions:

  1. Must the display surface be protected behind a cover of some kind or can it be exposed directly to The World?
  2. Is a contrast-enhancing filter commonly used or required?

Advice from anyone with OLED experience will be appreciated.

I’ll just step in to say: Beware of burn-in!

If there’s any static images or parts of images planned, you’re going to have to think about ways to mitigate it. They do look great though!

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Most of these can be exposed, though if there’s a significant risk of damage it is wise to place them behind a protective cover. Contrast of OLED displays is usually excellent, but the manufacturer can help you determine if your application can be enhanced with a filter.

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How long is too long?

That’s the real question. From what I understand, limiting the maximum brightness helps a lot.
You can probably ask the manufacturer as well as set up some tests to see how bad it actually is. Maybe it’s a non-issue for your application.

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Like @alvaro said, the manufacturer is best suited to answer this question. OLED pixel degradation is real, but there are ways to mitigate it; pixel shifting, brightness/contrast reduction - either static or automatic based on sensing ambient light, changing display contents (screensavers or presenting the information in alternating formats), etc. I’ve seen displays that alternate between normal and “negative” images to help ensure that all pixels degrade equally over time.

Hi Julia,
If it goes outside, you might consider an IP65 display or try to design to that spec. It should be resistant to ingress water and dust.

I know three things about OLEDs that might be useful:

  1. they used to fade really badly after 18-24mo regardless of use. I feel like this has been fixed with I.e. cell phone displays but I don’t know how common the problem still is among commodity displays. A display similar to that one destroyed my expensive as hell Agilent u1253A, and basically rendered an entire generation of that product e-waste after 2y. I probably used it for a grand total of 2 hours on the first display, and 2 more on the second that took a LOT of effort to scrounge up online, after Agilent cut and ran IMMEDIATELY. They refused to even sell the repair part.

  2. garmin, upon introducing oled displays, implemented a whole set of API requirements for maximum pixels lit at any given time and thickness of fonts to enable pixel shifting and maximum static image display durations and so on, all to avoid burn in.

  3. my iPhone XS got noticeable (but not super annoying) burn-in or the keyboard after 3 years. Only visible if you were displaying a consistent bright color but still, if it’s a problem for Apple on a flagship device it’s probably not “solved”

So I guess the biggest question in my head would be the expected durability of the device.

I’ve emailed them with questions, but given the overall quality of their documentation I’m not too hopeful for definitive answers.

It’s not going outside, but it’ll be used in a somewhat industrial setting so maybe I’ll put a piece of acrylic in front of it.

Ugh. I anticipate max usage of 8 hrs/day, resting all night and weekends, with some but not all display elements changing periodically.

I haven’t noticed any degradation on my XS after at least 3 years, but I doubt that that can be extrapolated to this Matrix Orbital module.

3-5 years would be good, it’s going to a fairly prestigious client.

I’ve run the cheap $2 OLED modules for years, and I’ve not had many issues.
$69/unit appears quite steep too, and if the data they provide is sparse, I’d suggest looking elsewhere.

Would it be possible to sell the unit and consider the display as “consumable” to be replaced after 24 months? I’ve done that for high-impact components such as buttons on kids’ “edutainment” units. No button will survive years of being mashed by kids.

@no1089 How do you design the screens as replaceable modules for something like a kids toy?

That’s reassuring, thanks!

Cost is not a big issue, but ease of development is, as I will have like 2 weeks to get all the firmware working. The API is very straightforward, and that part is well-documented. But I’m open to suggestions for the next couple of days while I wrap up the board layout.

The unit is not being sold on the market, it’s a bespoke (overused word, sorry, but it’s appropriate here) design for in-house use by an industrial client.

I’ll answer some of my own questions, for the sake of future seekers.

  • The display is fronted with glass, so I’m not going to bother with an additional cover.
  • The contrast is super-high and no filter is needed.
  • I obviously can’t speak to burn-in with only a couple of hours of operation, but I do note that it’s plenty bright at 67% of max.

You probably already know this, but UV is a major contributor to degradation - you can buy UV control films to put in your optical stackup to improve their lifetime.

I think it’s both direct damage from UV and the increased heating that reduces their lifetime.

Around here in the Los Angeles area, many McDonald’s drive-through lanes upgraded with large screen monitors around the same time. At first, some of the more direct-sun exposed monitors started to show thermal damage and, over time, I’ve noticed other locations with the same monitor starting to show the same kind of damage. Being sun-readable, I’m sure their backlights also were toasty to begin with! Just something to keep in mind.

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Good to know, thanks! Thankfully this device will be used only indoors.