The startup company Flexbright commercialises VTT-developed embedded electronics technology in lighting and signage applications, with bus windscreen displays piloted in 2018. Coupled with IoT capabilities, the led foil can include built-in diagnostics and sensors for ambient measurements.
Fabric-thin light fixtures
Founded in 2013, Flexbright has developed one of the most innovative products in lighting, LEDFOIL, in collaboration with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The exciting new technology is based on roll-to-roll (R2R) mass production capacity, IoT capabilities, low energy consumption, large area and, most importantly of all, an ultra-thin flexible construction that is less than one millimetre thick. The applications for this brand-new lighting system are almost infinite, from industrial to commercial to domestic.
New technologies come together
When worldwide lighting trends were shifting towards LED lighting in the first decade of the millennium, VTT was already examining the possibilities of LED technology. On the one hand, there were the high-power bulbs used, for example, in street lights, on the other, miniature OLEDs (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) that required less power, generated less heat, and could be printed on flexible substrates.
By 2007, the price of semiconductor LEDs had decreased, and unpackaged elements started to appear on the market. Development started on bonding LED elements to a flexible substrate. In 2012, PrintoCent, VTT’s pilot facility in Oulu, Finland, completed its first R2R bonding machine, producing the first demonstrations of thin-film LED stripes where the components were all but invisible to the eye.
At this point, Pekka Makkonen, a serial entrepreneur and active in the illuminated sign business, became interested in the new technology. The first applications involved white LED strips for lighting and illuminated signage. Having founded the startup Flexbright to commercialise the new technology, the idea changed on the fly at a trade fair in Dubai where potential customers were more interested in pixel controllable, coloured LED strips. The initial production runs took place at VTT’s PrintoCent facility, specialising in R2R printing. When these proved successful, and leveraging VTT’s participation, Flexbright set up its first own production line in the beginning of 2018.
"Close cooperation with VTT has been excellent support for Flexbright. There have been some customer needs for which Flexbright could not have provided a solution alone. But together with VTT, we have found an optimal solution for our customers."
says Flexbright’s CEO Pekka Makkonen.