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 are expected to hit the market by the end of 2019.
The latest flexible OLED news:
LG Electronics announced that it is now shipping the world's first rollable OLED TV, the 65" 65RX OLED TV. The price is set at KRW 100 million (USD 87,000) - that's actually cheaper than expected.
The 65RX rollable TV is currently available in Korea only. The rollable OLED TV was first unveiled in early 2019, but LG did not manage to produce it until now as it faced several technology challenges, including low durability.
OLED-Info's foldable, flexible, VR/AR, transparent, microdisplays, automotive and graphene OLED market reports updated to October 2020
Today we published new versions of our market reports - that cover the flexible, VR/AR, microdisplays, automotive 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 October 2020.
- 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!
DSCC says that the first half of 2020 has seen lower production at OLED fabs, due to normal season-related weakness in combination with the COVID-10 pandemic. Utilization rates and production capacity, however, rebounded in Q3 and will continue to be higher in Q4 of 2020.
The main reason for the bounce of flexible OLED production in Q3 was due to new products by Apple, Samsung and other device makers. In fact flexible OLED production in 2020 was higher in all months of 2020, including the weak quarters. However rigid OLEDs have seen a large drop in 2020 which has risen slightly in Q3 and will continue to rise - but remain smaller than 2019.
In March 2014 Konica Minolta announced that it is starting to construct a R2R flexible OLED lighting fab, hoping to start production in the fall of 2014. This fab entered production later than planned, and took a long time to reach real mass production capabilities. KM has been producing panels for quite some time, but finally it is offering its panels to global customers.
Konica Minolta is currently offering four different modules - two white panels, sized 43x15 mm and 15x15 mm and a red 15x15 mm panel. The red panel can be integrated with an NFC Antenna. The panels can be flexed (40mm radius) and they all offer a brightness of 500 nits.
BOE says that its current flexible OLED market share is around 20%. The company says that it plans to increase its market share to 40% by 2024 - and become the world's leader in flexible OLED production by then. BOE estimates that the flexible OLED market will generate $49.7 billion in revenues in 2024.
Earlier this month BOE announced that it shipped 16 million flexible OLEDs in the first half of 2020, and the company expects to ship over 40 million panels in the whole of 2020. BOE main problems currently lie with its Huawei account - the Chinese smartphone maker is expected to producing only 50 million smartphones in 2021 - down from 190 million in 2020. BOE hopes to recoup some of its Huawei orders by becoming an OLED supplier to Apple.
Samsung Display announced that it has commercial a new foldable OLED display that is the first to achieve a curvature radius of 1.4R mm. This display will be adopted in Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold2 5G (7.6" 1768x2208 HDR10+ 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED) with an Ultra-Thin Glass (UTG) cover glass.
Samsung says that in order to minimize the folding stress that is increased in such a small folding radius, the company has optimized a series of technologies related to the material of the display, the panel design and the module assembly, so that the multi-layered structure will function like a cushion when the panel is folded.
Poland-based Ergis Group has developed a new solution for OLED panel encapsulation. The noDiffusion film, developed in collaboration with Ergis' partners can be adopted as both the flexible substrate and the encapsulation layer for OLED devices.
The Ergis noDiffusion film offers high barrier properties, high level of optical transmittance and a low level of light scattering. This enables the production of OLED displays with extended lifetimes, efficiency and image properties. The noDiffusion film can also be used in the production of solar panels to increase panel efficiency and lifetimes.
Ergis says that the biggest advantage of its new film solution is the lower manufacturing costs, as the films already include an embedded encapsulation layer and could optionally include an embedded electrode layer.
During the company's conference call, BOE says that it plans to ship over 40 million flexible OLED panels in 2020. In the first half of the year BOE shipped 16 million units, and it expects to ship over 24 million units in the second half.
This target means that BOE expects its shipments to rise over 130% from 2019 (it shipped around 17 million units, according to Omdia). This 40 million target is actual a sharp drop from BOE's plans at the end of 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic - to ship over 70 million panels.
UBI Research estimates that OLED smartphone display shipments reached 87 million units in Q2 2020 (down 23.1% compared to Q2 2019, and down 17% compared to Q1 2020).
The drop in rigid OLED smartphone display shipments was 40.3% from Q2 2019 to Q2 2020 - due to a drop in mid-tier smartphone production in China. Flexible OLED shipments actually rose 38% from last year as you can see in the chart below.
Researchers from Semiconductor Energy Laboratory (SEL) developed flexible OLED displays that incorporate organic image sensors inside the OLED pixels using side-by-side patterning. The sensors can be used as cameras for applications such as fingerprint sensing - which will work on the entire display.
SEL presented two prototypes, one a 3.07" 360x540 (212 PPI) display and the second is a 8" one with a higher pixel density of 302 PPI. SEL says that the fingerprint recognition works even when the display is bent.