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OLED is an emerging display technology that enables beautiful and efficient displays and lighting panels. Thin OLEDs are already being used in many mobile devices and TVs, and the next generation of these panels will be flexible and bendable.

LG 5'' flexible OLED prototype photo



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.

ITRI 6'' flexible color AMOLED photo

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 A2 5.5-Gen line with a capacity of only 8,000 substrates per month and the newer A3 Gen-6 line that has a capacity of 15,000 monthly substrates. Samsung is currently producing around 9 million flexible OLEDs per month - to satisfy demand for the S7 edge and other devices. LG Display currently produces plastic-based OLEDs in its Gen-4.5 fab, and is investing $900 million to build a Gen-6 line.

Samsung 5.7'' flexible OLED photo