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. 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 5.5-Gen A2 and the and the newer A3 6-Gen A3. Samsung is producing around 9 million flexible OLEDs per month - to satisfy demand for its mobile phones and wearables - and Samsung is working on expanding its capacity as demand soars and as Apple ordered around 100 million flexible OLED panels for its future iPhones.

LG Display currently produces plastic-based OLEDs in its Gen-4.5 fab, and is investing $900 million to build new production lines as it also aims to become a major flexible AMOLED producer.

Flexible OLED lighting

OLEDs can also be used to make white lighting panels. OLED is a diffuse area lighting source with unique characteristics. While OLED lighting is still in its infancy, many believe that flexible OLED lighting panels may provide designers with a new lighting source that will create stunning designs. Currently there are two companies that produce flexible OLED lighting - LG Display who is also constructing the world's first Gen-5 OLED lighting mass production line and Konica Minolta who's also developing an amibitious flexible OLED lighting fab.

Flexible OLEDs Market Report

If you want to fully understand the flexible OLED display and lighting markets, check out our Flexible OLED Market Report. This comprehensive report explains:

  • Why flexible displays and lighting panels are so exciting
  • What kind of flexible displays are currently on the market
  • What the future holds for flexible OLEDs
  • How to acquire flexible OLEDs for your products

The report package also provides a complete list of flexible OLED developers and makers and their current (and future) products, and a lot more. Read more here!

Latest Flexible OLED news

Wisechip shows its latest PMOLEDs at the TADF Workshop in Japan

Jul 29, 2017

Wisechip, the Taiwan-based PMOLED maker, demonstrated its latest display panels and prototypes at the TADF Workshop last week in Fukuoka, Japan. This was an impressive display and a great chance to experience the latest PMOLEDs displays from Wisechip.

So first up we have the company's transparent PMOLED. This is a 4.1" (106x37.9 mm) segmented T-OLED specifically aimed for automotive HUD applications. The display has 4 colors (red, orange, green and blue) and offers a typical brightness of 800 nits (max is 1,500 nits). According to Wisechip the display will soon hit the market for a specific automotive partner.

Business Korea says Google aims to invest in LGD to secure VR OLED display capacity

Jul 29, 2017

Business Korea reports that LG Display is in talks with Google regarding a large investment in LGD's OLED facilities towards the development and production of VR displays. BK says the investment will amount of hundreds of billions of Won (equivalent to hundreds of millions USD).

LG VR headset prototype (March 2017)

LGD VR prototype, March 2017

The report is somewhat confusing, though. On the one had it says that Google is interested in OLED microdisplays, and on the other it says that LG will produce the displays in its existing flexible AMOLED lines, which use a different technology than microdisplays (which are produced on Silicon).

OLED Automotive Market Report

Reports say Apple to invest $2.7 billion to secure LGD's flexible OLED capacity in 2019

Jul 29, 2017

The Korea Economic Daily reports that Apple has signed a deal with LG Display to secure flexible OLED capacity. Apple will pay $2.7 billion to LG Display in order to secure 45,000 monthly substrates in LGD's upcoming 6-Gen production facility, starting in 2019.

iPhone 7 photo

The newspaper says that the two firms agreed to keep this deal confidential as Apple also partnered with Samsung Display for the supply of OLED capacity. Apple was always assumed to want a second OLED supplier, and earlier this week LGD confirmed it is seeking financial help from strategic partners as it embarks on an aggressive OLED expansion plan.

Samsung reports a record-breaking quarter, sees lower OLED revenue ahead

Jul 28, 2017

Samsung Electronics reported a record-breaking quarter, with revenues reaching 61 trillion Won ($54 billion USD) and an operating profit of 14 trillion Won (about $12.6 billion USD). The company's enjoyed a very strong chip and component business, which offset a slight decline in mobile devices revenues.

Samsung Galaxy S8 photo

Samsung Display posted an operating profit of 1.7 trillion Won ($1.5 billion) from revenues of 7.7 trillion Won ($6.8 billion). SDC's OLED business is strong and the company forecasts increased sales of flexible AMOLED displays as more smartphone makers are adopting flexible OLEDs.

Truly to construct a 6-Gen flexible AMOLED fab in Meishan, China

Jul 26, 2017

Truly Semiconductors signed an agreement with the Meishan City government (in Sichuan, China) to establish a joint-venture to construct a 6-Gen AMOLED line. The fab will be mostly used to produce small-sized AMOLED smartphone displays. In addition to the AMOLED line, Truly's new plant will also host a new 5-Gen TFT LCD production line.

Truly 6-Gen flexible AMOLED fab signing

Truly estimates that the project will cost a total of 40.4 billion Yuan (almost $6 billion USD). Construction of the AMOLED fab will begin in October 2018, and production is expected to begin in 2021. The cost of the AMOLED fab (which is the second stage in this project, the LCD line will come first) will total $4.1 billion USD. The AMOLED line will use 6-Gen substrates (1500x1850 mm) and will have a monthly capacity of 30,000 substrates (equivalent to over 52 million 5" panels annually).

The EU PI-SCALE project launches a flexible OLED lighting design competition

Jul 26, 2017

In March 2016 the EU launched the PI-SCALE with an aim to create a European-wide pilot line which will enable companies of all sizes to quickly and cost effectively test and scale up their flexible OLED lighting concepts and turn them into market ready products. PI-SCALE members recently managed to produce 10-meter long OLED lighting panels.

PI-SCALE OLED design competition strip (July 2017)

The PI-SCALE project now launched a flexible OLED design competition, calling out designers to propose OLED lighting and signage applications that highlight the special features of OLED technology: foldable, twistable, bendable, conformable, transparency, large area illumination.

IHS: flexible OLED capacity to almost double each year until 2020, leading to potential oversupply

Jul 26, 2017

IHS estimates that flexible OLED production capacity is set to increase from 1.5 million square meters to 20.1 million square meters between 2016 and 2020. That's a compound annual growth rate of 91%!

Mobile-application AMOLED capacity (2016-2020, IHS)

IHS says that almost all new small-sized displays OLED capacity added in the future will be used to produce flexible OLEDs, which will grow the market share of flexible OLEDs for mobile applications from 28% today to 80% by 2020. In the years between 2016 to 2020, OLED producers in China, Korea and Japan will build the equivalent of 46 new flexible AMOLED fabs (each with 30,000 monthly substrates).

LGD announces $7 billion in new OLED investments: a 10.5-gen and 6-Gen lines in Paju and a 8.5-Gen line in Guangzhou

Jul 25, 2017

LG Display announced its results for Q2 107 - revenues increased 13% from 2016 to KRW6.63 trillion (around $6 billion USD) and net income reached KRW737 billion ($660 million USD). TV panels accounted for 46% of LGD's revenues, mobile devices 22% and desktop monitors and tablets and notebook displays accounted for the rest.

LG 2016 OLED TV lineup

In addition to the earning results, LGD detailed its investment path for OLEDs, as was decided in a recent board meeting. First of all, LGD decided to build a 10.5-Gen (2940x3370 mm) OLED line in its upcoming P10 fab in Paju. LGD will make an up-front investment of KRW2.8 trillion ($2.5 billion USD). The whole fab will require more investments but LGD says it is taking a prudent approach - it will only begin mass production of OLED TVs after stabilizing the technology for these extra large size substrates.

EU's PI-SCALE project can now produce 10 meter long OLED Lighting panels

Jul 24, 2017

In March 2016 the EU launched a new project, called, PI-SCALE, that aims to create a European-wide pilot line which will enable companies of all sizes to quickly and cost effectively test and scale up their flexible OLED lighting concepts and turn them into market ready products.

PI-SCALE members started to produce sample panels - and can currently make long films up to 10 meters in size. You can see such sheets (cut to 1.8 meters) in the video above, taken at SID DisplayWeek.

Guangzhou New Vision demonstrates its latest flexible and foldable OLEDs

Jul 24, 2017

China's Guangzhou New Vision demonstrated its latest flexible and foldable AMOLED displays at SID DisplayWeek. According to the company in the video below, these displays will enter production in 1.5 years.

As can be seen in the video, the company is developing flexible OLEDs with a resolution of 400 PPI on oxide-TFT backplanes and Polyimide substrates. New Vision also develops printing technologies (for both OLED and QLED displays, interestingly) - but these are still in an early stage, it seems.