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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

It is estimated that the first range of devices to use a flexible display won't be flexible at all. While the manufacturer may bend the display or curve it around a non-flat surface, the final user will not be able to actually bend the device. Still it will have several advantages: these displays will be lighter, thinner and much 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

After years of research, 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 S6 Edge (shown below), the LG G Flex 2 and even Apple's Watch.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge photo

Samsung Display is currently producing flexible OLEDs in a 5.5-Gen line with a capacity of only 8,000 substrates per month - which is about 1 million 5" panels at 100% yields. Samsung aims to start production in its new 6.5-Gen flexible OLED fab in early 2015. LG Display currently produces plastic-based OLEDs in its Gen-4.5 fab, with a monthly capacity of 14,000 substrates. Reportedly, LGD is also planning to increase its production capacity with a new Gen-6 line.

Samsung 5.7'' flexible OLED photo