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Article last updated on: Feb 07, 2019

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 Galaxy S7 Edge at MWC photo

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:

A visit to LG Display's Paju OLED production hub and show room

On March 9th, LG Display's promotion team kindly invited us to a tour of LG's "Display City" in Paju, Korea. The display complex houses about 20,000 employees, and is highly impressive. It was a pleasure to get the opportunity to see it.

The first thing one notices is the new P10 10.5-Gen OLED TV fab building - which is the largest building in Paju. The P10 OLED TV fab is not complete yet, but according to reports LGD will be ready to start installing the equipment soon.

Futaba's flexible 1.4" 128x16 PMOLED display now available on the OLED Marketplace

We are happy to announce that Futaba's film-type flexible 1.4"128x16 monochrome white PMOLED display has been added to the OLED Marketplace. This unique flexible PMOLED joins Futaba's 1.8" 160x32 white flexible PMOLED that is also available through the marketplace.

If you are interested in this display for your device or new project, contact us now, or check out more information over at the OLED Marketplace.

OLED displays and lighting in Seoul - March 2019

In early March we conducted a 10 day trip to Seoul, to attend the OLED Korea 2019 conference (and visit some local display companies).

Visiting Seoul is a great chance to witness some beautiful OLED installations - LG Display has been deploying its OLED lighting and display solutions across town in businesses and tourist attractions. Retail stores of course were showing the latest smartphones by Samsung and LG - all of which adopt high end flexible AMOLED displays.

LG to brand its CSO OLED as Display Speaker

Last month LG Electronics announced its G8 ThinQ with its 6.1" 1440x3120 Crystal Sound OLED. According to a new trademark filing, LG now aims to brand its CSO OLEDs as "Display Speaker".

LG G8 ThinQ photo (Seoul, March 2019)

A Crystal Sound OLED, or Display Speaker turns the flexible OLED display into high end speakers. This innovating OLED technology works for smartphones, TVs and also OLED lighting panels. In LG's trademark filing, it also hints that this technology will be used in future wearable displays.

TCL shows foldable OLED devices prototypes at MWC 2019

China-based TCL has unveiled a new foldable OLED phone prototype at MWC 2019. The device uses a 7.2" 2048 x 1546 AMOLED display that folds inwardly (in a similar way to the Samsung Galaxy Fold). TCL's device, however, is a prototype and not a product.

TCL is both a smartphone maker and a display producer. This device was demonstrated by the smartphone maker arm - and we are not sure whether it uses a foldable OLED produced at TCL's own OLED lines (CSoT's T4 6-Gen flexible OLED line in Wuhan should enter production soon) or whether the panel is produced by Samsung, BOE or Visionox.

Nubia demonstrates its Alpha foldable device, will ship in April 2019

In September 2019 Nubia unveiled a smartband that turns into a smartphone - with a foldable OLED display. Nubia said it will launch its Alpha foldable smartband by the end of 2018. This did not happen, but at MWC 2019 the company demonstrated the device again - and announced a new release date and prices.

The Nubia Alpha will start shipping in April 2019 in the US and Europe - but only the Bluetooth variant. The cost will be around $500. Nubia will also release an eSIM device - which will cost $624 and will launch in Q3 2019.

Huawei launches its foldable Mate X 5G smartphone

Huawei launched its first foldable smartphone, the Mate X with a glorious 8" 2200x2480 foldable AMOLED display that folds outwards. When closed, the phone operates as it has two displays - a 6.6" 1148x2480 on the front and a smaller 6.38" 2480x892 display on the back (which makes room for the cameras).

The Mate X specifications include 5G connectivity, a Kirin 980 octa-core chipset, 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage, a NM memory slot and a quad camera setup with Leica optics.

CLSA: Samsung plans to increase flexible OLED shipments by 48% in 2019

CLSA released an interesting investment note and details Samsung Display's 2019 plans and expectations. Samsung's A3 flexible OLED line suffered from low utilization (52% in 2018) and Samsung hopes to improve this to 70% in 2019. Samsung shipped 145 million flexible OLEDs in 2018 and aims to sell 215 million in 2019 (a 48% increase).

Samsung W2019 photo

In 2018 Samsung shipped 7 million flexible OLEDs to Chinese phone makers, and it aims to increase this to 40-45 million in 2019 (CLSA is skeptical of Samsung's ability to meet its target - even though the company seeks to cut its prices and offer volume discounts and offer the lower specification panels to mid-range smartphones). CLSA sees SDC's average flexible OLED price declining 15% in 2019.

Fraunhofer FEP and EMDE to demonstrate textile embedded flexible OLED lighting

The Fraunhofer FEP institute has teamed up with OLED lighting developer EMDE development of light to demonstrate wearable OLED lighting based on flexible OLEDs integrated into textile designs. The OLED demonstration will be unveiled at LOPEC 2019.

Textile embedded flexible OLED prototype (Fraunhofer,  EMDE, PI-SCALE) photoThis project is part of the EU-funded PI-SCALE project, which recently demonstrated 15 meters long flexible OLED lighting panels. The Fraunhofer FEP says that they have taken a major step forward for the economical fabrication of OLED lighting devices based on the roll to roll process.

Samsung reports its Q4 2018 financial results - lower OLED revenues, demand will pick up in H2 2019

Samsung Electronics reported its financial results for Q4 2018, with revenues of KRW 59.27 trillion ($53 billion USD), down 10% from Q4 2017. Samsung's operating profit of KRW 10.8 trillion ($9.6 billion) was down 29% from 2017.

Samsung Display reported a decline in rigid smartphone OLED display sales - due to rising competition from LCD panels. Demand for flexible OLEDs was strong. In Q1 2019, OLED display sales will remain weak - but Samsung says that flexible OLED demand will pickup in the second half of 2019.