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:
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 Perovskite PV developer Saule Technologies 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.
Samsung announced several new OLED devices yesterday. We'll start with the new Galaxy Note 20 which sports a 6.7-inch 1080x2400 HDR10+ Super AMOLED Plus display (which could mean this is an RGB display, not a Pentile one). The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a larger 6.9-inch 1440x3088 Dynamic AMOLED. The display supports a refresh rate of 120Hz at Full-HD resolution and 60Hz at QHD. According to the Elec in Korea, the Note 20 Ultra display has an LTPO backplane (which Samsung calls HOP).
Next up is the company's 2nd generation Galaxy Z Fold 2 that is an update to the original fold with a larger internal foldable display at 7.6" 1768x2208 HDR10+ 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED and also a larger 6.23" 816x2260 Super AMOLED cover display. The Fold 2 also improves the hinge design and sports an ultra-thin-glass cover (like the Galaxy Z Flip).
LGD opens a new OLED showroom, looks to collaborate with other industries to accelerate OLED adoption
LG Display announced that it is aiming to strike strategic cooperations with companies from industries such as the construction, furniture, and interior design, with an aim to find new application for next-generation OLED displays.
LGD opened a new OLED showroom at LG's Science Park in Magok which allows people to experience different OLED products - including transparent and mirror displays, wallpaper displays and "variable TVs" (not sure what is meant by that, perhaps it is a reference to LG's rollable OLED technology). LGD also released the video you see above showing several "virtual" OLED display demonstrations