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. These first-gen flexible OLEDs are adopted many premium smartphones, for example the Samsung edge-type Galaxy phones or Apple's iPhone X and Xs. 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 displays can be bent by the user - these can be used for example to create foldable smartphones - the first range of which started shipping in 2019. Rollable OLEDs are also now entering the market for both TVs and smartphones.
The latest flexible OLED news:
LG Display is showcasing how OLED technology can change the shopping malls of the future. At LG's Science Park in Seoul's Magok district, the company build a show room with some nice OLED demonstrations.
First up are the glass doors to the show room, which have four 55-inch transparent OLEDs embedded in them. The next demonstration is the Smart Stall, which embed OLED electronic shelf labels and large-area OLED TV panels.
An AILU (Association of Industrial Laser Users) webinar, scheduled for September 15, will introduce the basics of OLED lighting, discuss the choice for the right substrate and encapsulation material as well as the current status of roll-to-roll processing. The webinar is sponsored by 3D Micromac, the industry leader in laser micromachining and roll-to-roll laser systems.
The webinar will also show results from the EU-funded LAOLA project, which is a collaboration between German and Japanese companies and research institutes. The LAOLA project, led by the Fraunhofer FEP, develops the use of ultra-thin flexible glass as a substrate and encapsulation material in roll-to-roll technology for this purpose.
At the iMID 2021 conference in Korea, Samsung Display demonstrated a speaker that uses a 12.4" folding-out AMOLED display:
The AI-powered speaker device connects to your phone and can unfold to show a larger image.
Airbus and Royole teamed up to demonstrate a digital inflight magazine - that makes use of a thin flexible OLED panel.
The two companies have been working together since 2018, and are now presenting a prototype device. The device looks like an iPad, but feels like a flexible magazine. The OLED display looks better than currently-used LCD displays in airplane seats, and also consumes less power and are also lighter.
Last year, Poland-based Ergis Group launched an OLED encapsulation film platform called Ergis noDiffusion®. The company is currently testing its film solutions at customer sites in Asia, the EU and the US, and it is now starting to expand the platform for the protection of quantum dot films (QD films) used in display and lighting applications.
These new films can be tuned to fit specific needs. Ergis can deploy its films on several substrate types, with varying film thickness, and the barrier properties can be tuned to be between 10-6 to 10-3. This means that custom films can be created to suit the specific sensitivity of the QDs for water vapor and to achieve specific product lifetime or other required properties.
The National Center for Flexible Electronics (FlexE) was established in 2014 as a Centre of Excellence at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur. The vision of the center is to "catalyse the development of domestic industry in the field of large area flexible electronics".
The FlexE center has some interesting OLED projects, and we recently had a discussion with researchers from the center to learn more about the OLED R&D activities.
China-based OLED lighting developer Yeolight Technology published two new videos that demonstrate the company's latest OLED technologies. You can see the company's segmented triangular based modules, and also a module based on flexible red panels:
The triangular-based OLED, which the company refers to as digital OLED taillight (it reminds us of Audi's technology, produced by OLEDWorks, which goes by the same name), uses modules that use 50 segments (each a right-angled triangle with an area of 19 mm2). We do not have any information on the flexible panels.
DSCC says that smartphone OLED shipments have increased around 50% in Q1 2021 compared to last year, and the growth will continue - around 30% in Q2 2021 and over 40% in Q3.
The market share of flexible AMOLEDs out of all OLEDs (rigid + flexible) continues to rise, and in Q1 2021 77% of all smartphone OLED displays were flexible ones. Samsung is still the largest producer by far, holding a 75% market share in Q1 2021. LG Display holds a 8% share and BOE 6%.
Flexible OLED producer Royole announced a new development kit, called the Royole RoKit, an open platform for designers to develop products based on flexible electronics. The RoKit is now shipping in the US, Europe, Japan and China.
The RoKit includes a 7.8" 1440x1920 60Hz flexible OLED display with touch input (Cicada Wing foldable OLED), Royole's fully-flexible sensor module, an Android 10 motherboard that includes HDMI to MIPI, Wi-Fi, USB and more and more accessories.
Omdia: OLED shipments in Q2 2021 will reach 110 million units, details its flexible OLED 2020-2021Q2 estimates
Market research company Omdia says that flexible OLED shipments in Q2 2021 reach 57 million units,a 54.1% increase over Q2 2020 (but a 35% drop compared to Q1 2021, due to seasonality and lower orders by Apple). Rigid OLED shipments will reach 53 million units in Q2 2021.
The leading flexible OLED maker is Samsung Display, which will ship 39.1 million flexible OLED panels in Q2 2021 (a 61.6% increase over Q1 2020). LG Display will ship 10.6 million units of flexible OLEDs, an increase of 55.9% over last year. The third largest producer, BOE, will ship 7.9 million units, a 31.9% drop from last year, as orders Huawei are shrinking.