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:

Apple may adopt BOE's flexible AMOLEDs for future iPhones starting in 2020

Back in early 2017 it was reported that Apple is in discussions with BOE Display to supply OLED displays for future iPhones. Up until now Samsung was the exclusive iPhone AMOLED supplier, but a new report from Japan suggests that BOE and Apple's talks are still ongoing.

In fact the Nikkei Asian Review says that Apple is "aggressively testing" BOE's flexible AMOLED displays. The NAR claims that Apple will decide whether to add BOE as a supplier by the end of 2019. Such a deal will be a great step forward for BOE toward its goal to become a leading AMOLED supplier.

Visionox announces plans to establish a $1.6 billion AMOLED module factory in Guangzhou

China-based OLED producer Visionox announced plans to establish a flexible and foldable OLED module factory in Guangzhou, China. Together with the local government, Visionox plans to invest 11.2 billion Yuan (around $1.6 billion USD) in this new factory.

Visionox 6-Gen flexible AMOLED fab (Hebei, China)

Visionox did not provide any time frame for this new fab. The company is currently operating a 6-Gen AMOLED production line in Hebei (with a monthly capacity of 30,000 substrates) and has announced plans to establish a similar flexible OLED line in Hefei in a $6.3 billion investment.

Sharp to stop producing smartphone OLED displays

Business Korea reports that Sharp will withdraw from the smartphone OLED market. Sharp started producing OLEDs in low volume in August 2018, and Business Korea quotes IHS saying that Sharp understands it cannot compete with Korean and Chinese companies with both technology and price.

Business Korea says that Sharp produced a total of 60,000 smartphone OLED panels - 6.2" 1440x2992 flexible notch-type AMOLEDs that were adopted in Sharp's own Aquos Zero phone. Sharp has already stopped production last month. It is not clear if Sharp will still continue to produce OLEDs for other applications (automotive perhaps?) or will it withdraw from all production.

The DoE grants $1 million to OLEDWorks for flexible OLED lighting R&D

The United States Department of Energy (DoE) granted $1.05 million for OLEDWorks, allocated through the DoE's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The funds will be used to further improve efficiency and lower the costs of flexible OLED lighting panels, which will help reduce energy consumption while simultaneously providing healthier, unique lighting solutions that are cost competitive in the main stream lighting markets.

OLEDWorks Lumicurve Wave photo

In November 2018 OLEDWorks announced that its first flexible OLED lighting panels are now commercially available. The OLEDWorks LumiCurve Wave are produced on Corning's 0.1mm thin Willow Glass flexible glass substrates. OLEDWorks says that the Wave panels are extremely thin and light and deliver the superb light quality and excellent color rendering that is uniquely achievable with OLED.

Visionox confirms it supplies the prototype foldable and embedded-camera OLED displays to Xiaomi

In January 2019 Xiaomi unveiled a new prototype smartphone that uses a tri-foldable OLED display. The company did not disclose much information, but a report from Taiwan suggested that the OLED supplier for this prototype was Visionox.

In an interview with China Daily a Visionox VP confirms that Visionox supplied the foldable OLED prototypes to Visionox. He also says that Visionox supplied Xiaomi with the innovative OLED displays with under-the-screen camera (seen in the video below).

CSoT demonstrated new OLED display prototypes and technologies at SID DisplayWeek 2019

China-based display maker CSoT demonstrated several new OLED display prototypes and technologies at SID 2019, and this great new video shows these displays in action.

First up is a 31" 4K (3840 x 2160, 144 PPI) AMOLED that was produced using an ink-jet printing process on an IGZO substrate. The peak brightness is 200 nits and the refresh rate is 120 Hz. This seems to be the same panel announced in March 2018 by Joshua Printing Display Technology (established by CSoT and Tianma in 2016). The display has some noticable defects.

Visionox shows new foldable, flexible and automotive OLED Displays at SID 2019

China-based OLED producer Visionox has demonstrated several new OLED technologies at SID DisplayWeek 2019 last month, and the following great video shows the company's impressive booth and displays.

First up is a foldable OLED display that can be folded inwards and outwards. The panel's folding radius is 5 mm, and Visionox says that it can be folded over 200,000 times. The company did not disclose the exact size and resolution, though.

OLED-Info's foldable, flexible, VR/AR, transparent, microdisplays, PMOLED, automotive and graphene OLED market reports updated to July 2019

Today we published new versions of our market reports - that cover the flexible, VR/AR, microdisplays, automotive, PMOLED and graphene OLED markets. OLED-Info provides comprehensive niche OLED market reports, and our reports cover everything you need to know about the niche market, and can be useful if you want to understand how the OLED industry works and what this technology can provide for your own industry. The reports are now updated to July 2019.

The Flexible and Foldable OLED Market Report:

  • Why flexible displays and lighting panels are so exciting
  • What kind of flexible displays are currently on the market
  • All about the foldable OLED market and industry
  • What the future holds for flexible OLEDs
  • How to acquire flexible OLEDs for your products

The report package provides a good introduction to the flexible and foldable OLED market - present and future. It details both flexible displays and lighting technologies. Read more here!

OLED production in Korea could be halted by the end of July due to Japan's restriction of free exports

A few days ago we reported on Japan's government decision to restrict some material exports, including fluorinated polyimide, to South Korea, following a diplomatic tension between the two countries.

Samsung W2019 photo

Polyimide is required for OLED production, and Japan controls about 90% of the world's production. According to a new report from Korea, Samsung and other companies have warned the Korean government that production in some plants could be halted as early as by the end of July if these materials are not available. It is not clear what is the situation of Samsung's (and LG's) OLED production.