OLED is an emerging display technology that enables beautiful and efficient displays and lighting panels. OLEDs are already being used in many mobile devices and TVs, and the next generation of these panels will be flexible and bendable.
Different kinds of flexibility
When we talk about flexible OLEDs, it's important to understand what that means exactly. A flexible OLED is based on a flexible substrate which can be either plastic, metal or flexible glass. The plastic and metal panels will be light, thin and very durable - in fact they will be virtually shatter-proof.
The first range of devices that use flexible OLED displays are not really flexible from the user perspective. The device maker bends the displays, or curves it - but the final user is not able to actually bend the device. Besides the beautiful designs, a flexible OLED has several advantages especially in mobile devices - the displays are lighter, thinner and more durable compared to glass based displays.
Second generation flexible OLED devices may indeed be flexible to the final user. Finally, when the technology is ready, we may see OLED panels that you can fold, bend or stretch. This may create all sorts of exciting designs that will enable large displays to be placed in a mobile device and only be opened when required.
Flexible OLED products
In October 2013, following many years of development and prototype demonstrations, both Samsung and LG Display finally started producing flexible AMOLED displays on plastic (polyimide) substrates. Both Korean companies are now mass producing such displays, which are being used in mobile phones and wearable devices - such as the Galaxy S7 Edge (shown below), the LG G Flex 2 and Apple's Watch.
Samsung Display is currently producing flexible OLEDs in two production lines, the 5.5-Gen A2 and the and the newer A3 6-Gen A3. Samsung is producing around 9 million flexible OLEDs per month - to satisfy demand for its mobile phones and wearables - and Samsung is working on expanding its capacity as demand soars and as Apple ordered around 100 million flexible OLED panels for its future iPhones.
LG Display currently produces plastic-based OLEDs in its Gen-4.5 fab, and is investing $900 million to build new production lines as it also aims to become a major flexible AMOLED producer.
The latest flexible OLED news:
China-based BOE Display demonstrated many OLED displays at SID 2019, including new flexible, foldable, rollable and automotive AMOLED displays. Here's a video showing the company's complete SID lineup:
Visionox collaborated with visual processing developer PixelWorks to demonstrate how PixelWork's power efficient processors can enhance the visual quality of Visionox's flexible OLED displays. The demo was based a 5.9" 2160x1080 60Hz flexible AMOLED display.
PixelWorks' Iris platform provides a cost effective solution to provide high-end TV-like HDR experience on a smartphone. The processor enables automatic adaptive displays (that can adapt to the ambient conditions, the content on display, color temperatures and more).
According to a report from Korea, LG Display has halted production at one of its production lines at its E6 production fab, LG's 6-Gen flexible OLED line that commenced production at the end of 2018.
According to the report, the problem lies with LGD's thin film encapsulation equipment - specifically the equipment that deposited the organic particles - which apparently suffers from sub par performance, not good enough for commercial production. LG is using equipment made by its subsidiary LG PRI in the E6-1 line, which is now halted.
China-based display maker TCL announced that its 6-Gen LTPS flexible AMOLED production line in Wuhan has commenced operation. The company already achieved some design wins with "top-class" phone makers and is expected to start shipping OLED displays to its customers in Q4 2019.
TCL's production line in Wuhan (which is actually owned by the company's subsidiary CSoT) will have a production capacity of 45,000 6-Gen substrates.
Intel is showing a new concept laptop design called the Ambient at Computex Taipei 2019. The new laptop has a flexible OLED panel integrated into the touchpad, that is visible when the laptop is closed.
The idea is that you can see information and control some basic functions (like Spotify music) even when the laptop is closed. The touchbar is controlled by its own Atom CPU which means it does not draw much power. This is just a prototype at this stage, it'll be interesting to see whether any laptop maker will adopt this design in future devices.
The Netherlands based SALDtech, established in 2018 as a spinoff from the TNO institute, announced that it closed its 2nd financing round led by Innovation Industries and BOM, Brabant Development agency.
SALDtech developed deposition tools based on the Holst Centre's Spatial Atomic Layer Deposition that can be used to produce large area ultra-thin layers with world class performance. SALDtech says it will used the investment to develop and build flexible OLED production equipment.
Fashion house Louis Vuitton demonstrated a bag with two flexible OLED displays (calling it a "Canvas Display") at the company's "Cruise 2020" show in New York earlier this week:
This is not the first Louis Vuitton OLED design - in 2017 it launched the Tambour Horizon, an Android Wear smartwatch that featured a 1.4" 390x390 round AMOLED . In 2019 the device was updated with a smaller 1.3" display.
According to Digitimes, PMOLED display maker RiTdisplay has started to produce flexible OLED lighting panels, targeting the automotive, medical and consumer (home) applications.
For the automotive market, the RiTdisplay is apparently collaborating with Luminit, through its Taiwan-subsidiary Luminit Automotive Technology. RiTdisplay is holding 30% at LAT which is already starting to supply OLED lighting panels for automotive brake lights and started low-volume shipments in Q1 2019.
Following the reports from early reviewers that the foldable screen in their Galaxy Fold devices broke down after a day or so, Samsung has decided to delay the release of its foldable smartphone.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Samsung wants to "fully evaluate the feedback and run further internal tests". Samsung will announce a new release date int he coming weeks. Samsung did not fully disclose its initial findings and does not give a full explanation to what went wrong with these review units. Samsung did, however, state that "Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge. There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance."
China-based OLED producer Visionox unveiled new foldable OLED prototypes at the China Information Technology Expo.
Visionox demonstrated inside and outside folding panels, 8.5-inch OLED that folds in two places and a larger 10.5-inch panel that folds in three places. Visionox says that its panels can be folded over 300,000 times.