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Kodak enlists Sumitomo for new displays

Sumitomo will distribute key materials for next-generation displays to Japanese makers, which should encourage development of the photography giant's technology.

Eastman Kodak's next-generation display technology got a boost Tuesday when it announced that Sumitomo will distribute key materials to Japanese manufacturing licensees.

Kodak's small molecule organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology is viewed as one of the future leading challengers to liquid crystal displays (LCD). The promise of OLED lies in key materials that emit light when stimulated by an electric charge.

The technology could mean that displays wouldn't need a backlight to brighten the screen, which would also lower power consumption. However, OLED is still years away from being a serious threat to the well-established LCD market. Tuesday's announcement could help OLED to quicken its pace. In Japan, OLED is also known as organic electroluminescence, or OEL.

Most of Kodak's key licensees of its OLED technology are in Japan, according to Dan d'Almeida, a vice president of marketing for Kodak. Licensees had previously acquired OLED materials from Kodak's headquarters in Rochester, N.Y. Sumitomo's distribution agreement gives these licensing manufacturers closer access to these key materials.

"The Sumitomo agreement means that Japanese manufacturers can increase their drive to commercialization," d'Almeida said.

OLED technology has been limited to small portable devices, such as cell phones and electric shavers, but some companies have prototypes of large-sized displays.

Analysts have said that supply and distribution agreements for OLED licensees are important for developing the market because they help to establish the infrastructure for the manufacturing.

Kodak's first licensee and the largest manufacturer of OLED screens, Pioneer Electronics, is based in Japan.

Kodak is one of the key proponents of small molecule-based OLED technology.