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Flexible displays enable lighter-weight, lower-power, more-rugged smartphones , soldiers wearable and vehicle applications

With the flat panel display having already been widely used more than 40 years, there have been many desired changes in the display technology, focusing on developing a lighter, thinner product that was easier to carry and store. A flexible display or rollable display is an electronic visual display which is flexible in nature, designed to be able to withstand being folded, bent and twisted as opposed to the traditional flat screen displays used in most electronic devices.


Through the development of rollable displays in recent years, scientists and engineers agree that flexible flat panel display technology has huge market potential in the future from e-readers, mobile phones and other consumer electronics.


Such screens can be rolled up like a scroll without the image or text being distorted. Flexible displays are useful in allowing the device to be stored in a smaller space, like a pocket while providing a screen size that is more enjoyable for the display of media. Flexible displays can make for better multitasking in mobile devices. In the case of smartphones, foldable displays can eliminate the need for a tablet as a secondary device for some.


Apple also has a patent for a foldable concept and is potentially expected by 2020-2021. Apple currently uses an OLED screen in certain phone models as well. And even though the fold isn’t seen, Apple still uses enthe flexible display to its advantage — bending the bottom half of the screen in on itself to eliminating the need of a bottom bezel.

Flexible tech can also be used to make ultra-thin displays without the fragility of glass screens. The massive wallpaper TV made by Samsung is very thin, yet you can watch it flex when picked up to no harm. Lenovo also has a prototype notebook with a foldable display as well as a prototype phone that folds into a smartwatch.


While the conventional electronics like computers and smartphones is built around silicon integrating billions of transistors and is manufactured using complex, costly and wasteful processes in multi-billion dollar foundries . The printed and flexible electronics aim to replace  this by “organic” semiconductors which are long chains of thousands of repeating molecules (a plastic), made with materials based on carbon.


Organic semiconductors can be made to be soluble, and can be turned into an ink. This means it’s possible to print electronic circuits, with the potential to manufacture components as fast as printing newspapers. A printer would do this by applying different inks onto the film. As the inks dried, they would turn into wires, transistors, capacitors, LEDs and all the other things needed to make displays and circuits.


The potential benefits of printed and flexible electronics include thinness, lighter weight, greater durability, and the ability for conformal integration. The intrinsic scalability of printing as a manufacturing process is also of great advantage; the process lends itself to production runs of an arbitrary size. The concept appears to provide a likely path to truly all-embracing electronics. Printed and flexible electronics (PFE) have potential to revolutionize multiple markets—health care, environmental monitoring, displays, human-machine interactivity, energy, communication, and wireless networks.


Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed “optoelectronic skin”, with an ultra-thin, flexible LED display that can be worn on the back of your hand. China has developed a new electronic paper, heralded as “the world’s first graphene electronic paper,” by Chen Yu, general manager of Guangzhou OED Technologies. The material can be used to create hard or flexible graphene displays, used in electronic products such as e-readers and wearable smart devices.


Rollable, foldable, and wearable displays are also expected to hit the military market in the near future. These capabilities will drastically aid in launching the design of rugged displays to eventually support virtual and augmented reality. “The future does continue to evolve toward that flexible, wearable display,” Steve Motter, vice president of business development at IEE, Inc. (Van Nuys, California) says. “In addition, the idea of virtual reality where the operator is wearing the display in an immersive environment is a huge area of development and investment in the display industry.”


The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has much interest in physical flexibility in electronic designs, to the extent that the DoD has made healthy investments in electronic innovator NextFlex. These investments include a recent $154 million award for an Army-led flexible electronics project. Formed in 2015, NextFlex is a consortium of companies, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, and government organizations with a shared goal of advancing the U.S. position in flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) technology. The list is long and impressive, and includes Analog Devices, BAE Systems, Raytheon Technologies, WL Gore & Associates, Purdue University, and the University of Maryland.



Mobile manufacturers launching Flexible, Foldable and Rollable Displays

The three largest mobile manufacturers are reportedly experimenting with flexible displays.  Samsung Electronics Co. said the company  aims to release a smartphone with a bendable display in 2018 under its Galaxy Note brand. Koh Dong-jin, president of mobile business at Samsung Electronics,  said there are several hurdles it has to overcome, leaving room to push back the release if those problems are not solved. The most important feature of the Galaxy X is that its display will be made up outside, allowing users to convert their phones into 7-inch tablets.


LG is said to come out with its own neat smartphone, which also rests outside to form a tablet. Patent drawings represent a conceptual LG phone that has a foldable display that can be used even after bending. LG Display, announced in June 2017 that it has developed the world’s first 77-inch flexible and transparent OLED display. The company’s newly-unveiled world’s first and largest flexible and transparent OLED display boasts an Ultra HD (UHD) resolution of 3840×2160 with 40 per cent transparency and 80 radius of curvature. The panel can be rolled up to a radius of 80mm without affecting the function of the display.


The South Korean electronics manufacturer, itends to use the Plastic OLED (P-OLED) display for its upcoming flexible smartphones and tablets. Plastic OLED as the name suggests is made out of plastic substrate. LG says that unlike LCD and glass OLED displays, Plastic OLED has simple structure, and is thinner and lighter. While glass displays are prone to breakage, Plastic OLED, which is film based, is flexible enough to be curved to a certain angle, and it does not break easily, according to LG’s Display unit. LG announced that it will invest One Trillion Won ($900 million) to build a flexible OLED display plant in Korea. This will be for a Gen 6 line with production starting in 2017.


Apple is considering the use of displays for the iPhone, but in the near future we probably will not see a folding iPhone. Although the tech giant is considering using the bending LCD display on the iPhone in 2018. The current iPhone supplier JDI announcing the 5.5-inch flexible display, called Full Active Flex.


JDI’s new display isn’t as flexible as OLED but it is bendy enough to wrap around the edges of a smartphone like the Galaxy Edge,The Full HD flexible displays are set to hit mass production in 2018, according to JDI, which is aiming to bring them to smartphones, notebooks, and vehicle dashboards.


US Army sees huge potential of flexible displays on Battlefield

US army also saw huge potential of flexible displays on the battlefield, as they will hold the key to successful military operations: real-time information. “Flexible displays are the next revolution in information technology that will enable lighter-weight, lower-power, more-rugged systems for portable and vehicle applications,” said Brig. Gen. Roger Nadeau, commanding general of the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command. Nadeau said flexible display technology will enable new applications for the soldier and Army platforms that cannot be realized with current glass-based displays. These will include body-worn displays that conform to the uniform; displays that can be rolled up and put in a pocket when not in use and unrolled for large-area, high information content; and many other applications that Army engineers and scientists are considering.


Army partnered with industry and academia to create the Flexible Display Center at Arizona State University in 2004. Since then, Teams of researchers have scored significant breakthroughs and racked up more than 50 patents. “We were starting to develop a lot of new kinds of electronic gizmos to help Soldiers,” said Nick Colaneri, center director. “The problem was, they all needed displays. Flat displays today are made out of glass. Glass is heavy and it breaks. So, we’re all about getting the glass out of displays.” Researchers say the most important result was figuring out how to put conventional electronics onto plastic using existing electronics manufacturing equipment. This manufacturing breakthrough opened a world of possibilities.


“The process allows us to glue plastic onto a carrier in a standard manufacturing fabrication facility and then de-bond it — kind of like a Post-it note. Literally the plastic peels off from the carrier,” said Eric Forsythe, Ph.D., Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, team leader and flexible electronics deputy project manager. “This allows us to leverage traditional manufacturing paradigms for flexible displays, which then reduces overall entry costs to enable displays while enabling the capability to fabricate electronics on plastic. And that’s really the key for large-scale manufacturing of displays.”


The displays essentially are extremely thin computer screens, says Army Research Laboratory Director John Miller. He says they will be “integrated with computation, communications and global positioning subsystems to significantly enhance the soldier’s situational awareness, survivability and effectiveness.” “The Soldier is going to have a display that is essentially embedded on his or her uniform that will provide information when it is needed,” said David Morton, Ph.D., ARL program manager for flexible displays. “The system will determine what information is needed, so as not to overload the Soldier with additional information. If a Soldier needs friend or foe information, or instructions on what to do, it will be provided instantly.”


This won’t be the Army’s only use of this technology. Morton said military vehicles of the future will have plastic displays. “They will be essentially a sheet of plastic that is, with the electronics — 1/16th of an inch thick and will weigh almost nothing,” Morton said. “When a vehicle is in combat and happens to get hit, you won’t have to worry about things flying off and killing people.” A significant portion of the volume and weight of things inside a military vehicle is due to making them rugged. A 10-pound monitor may need 10 pounds of metal to bolt it down. However, a sheet of plastic attached with Velcro poses a much lighter and minimal risk.


Types of flexible displays

Technologies involved in building a rollable display include electronic ink, Gyricon, Organic LCD, and OLED. Flexible displays offer many advantages over conventional display technology including: ultra-thin, light weight, bendable, portable, shatter-proof, unbreakable and low energy.


Typical flexible display technologies include E-paper and OLED displays. E-paper is not suited for motion due to low refresh rates and high blurring. As such most products that have been coming out and are generating excitement are flexible OLED (FOLED).


Flexible OLED and OLCD Displays

OLED organic light-emitting diode displays are predicted to take over our screens. OLED is brighter, displays greater contrast, and allows screens to be ultra-flat (only a few millimeters), curved, and flexible OLED displays are already available. Whereas in case of LCD or LED screen, where numerous layers assembled in front of a backlit system do not allow for ultra-flat screens, OLED emits both light and color on its own, thus greatly reducing the thickness of the screen. Unlike inorganic light-emitting diodes, an OLED light can be made on large plastic sheets. This means you could use OLEDs as flexible light-emitting surfaces to create new ways of lighting rooms, that aren’t reliant on point sources such as bulbs.


OLEDs are effectively a sandwich of one or more organic semiconductors in between layers that allow different electrical charges into the semiconductor. As charges meet in the middle of the sandwich, they combine together to give out light. “The market is exploding, but the product is still expensive, due to fairly low production yields, since achieving zero defects in a screen measuring one meter in diagonal remains complicated. This also explains why OLEDs are more frequently found in smartphones,” explains Ian Cayrefourcq, director of Emerging Technologies at Arkema, a partner company of the CNRS


The tricky part is making sure the devices are durable. OLED pixels can be destroyed by even trace amounts of water vapor and oxygen, so you have to seal the display within robust, high-quality, flexible materials. This is costly, and there are challenges with ensuring that the seal survives being bent hundreds or thousands of times over the lifetime of a device.


Organic LCD ( OLCD ) displays

At FlexEnable we have developed a complementary type of flexible display called organic LCD (OLCD) that can meet the requirements of applications for which OLED isn’t suitable. This is an active matrix LCD display built using an organic thin-film transistor (OTFT) backplane, allowing the whole display to be manufactured on a rugged plastic substrate with excellent optical performance. OLCD is extremely thin, light and shatterproof, and can be conformed to different surfaces and even cut into shapes.


Furthermore, OLCD can be used to make very bright displays without reducing its lifetime (unlike OLED). The lifetime of OLCD is independent of the display brightness as it is achieved through the transmission of a separate light source (the backlight), rather than emission of its own light.


Therefore, for flexible display applications that require either large area and/or high brightness with long lifetime, OLCD is the perfect choice. This includes applications in automotive, home appliances, digital signage and other consumer electronics where large area, low cost flexible displays are needed.


Flexible display market

The global flexible display market size was estimated to be USD 6.8 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 84.4 Billion by 2028 with a CAGR of 32.3% during the forecast period from 2020-2028. Increasing demand for smart electronic devices, mobile phones, and tablets is the contributing factor for the growth of the flexible display market.


Flexible displays are flexible in nature, contrary to the traditional displays used in most electronic devices. These displays are replacing flat pieces of glass or plastics in computer monitors, televisions, and mobile phones. They are durable as compared to traditional displays. They have better impact resistance and can also be bent. Currently, most companies are working on curved display technology, while several companies have already launched electronic products with flexible displays.


Based on type, the flexible display market has been segmented into OLED, LCD, LED, and EPD. OLED is the dominant flexible display type used in the market due to its higher energy efficiency. OLEDs have very small form factor and hence, are easy to manufacture as individual pixel. OLED is gaining popularity due to its better image quality, simple design, and flexibility.


Based on the substrate material, the flexible display market has been segmented into glass, plastic, and others. Plastic accounted for the largest share and is expected to register the highest growth due to the paradigm shift from glass substrate to plastic substrate. Plastic substrate offers lighter weight, robustness, and flexibility in terms of size and design.


Based on application, the flexible display market has been segmented into smartphones & tablets, smart wearables, televisions & digital signage systems, personal computers & laptops, monitors, vehicle & public transport, smart home appliances, and others. The smartphones & tablets segment is anticipated to capture the largest market share in 2020 and is anticipated remain the largest till the forecast period.


Based on region, the global flexible display market has been segmented into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East & Africa, and South America. Asia-Pacific dominated the global flexible display market in 2019 and is expected to grow at the fastest rate. Key display manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, Sony, AUO, and E Ink Holdings have manufacturing bases in the region. It is the largest market for smartphone, tablet, television, and other electronic products. Moreover, China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are the leading flexible and traditional display manufacturing countries globally.


Weak electronic equipment demand and poor vehicle demand have impacted the flexible display demand, mainly in Asia Pacific and Europe regions. But it is anticipated that the demand for mobile phones, consumer electronics, and vehicles will surge in the coming years. All the recent and future developments associated with COVID-19 are considered while analysing market trends and making forecast in this study.


Top-List of Key-players in 2020 of Flexible Display Market:- are LG Display Co. ,Ltd, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, AU Optronics Corp., Innolux Corporation, Sharp Corporation, BOE Technology Group Co., Ltd,Japan Display Inc., Hannstar Display Corporation, Panasonic Corporation, Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd, Acuity Brands Lighting Inc., Koninklijke Philips N.V., Osram Licht AG, Pioneer Corporation and
Ritek Corporation



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