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

Skyworth demonstrates a flexible OLED bracelet at CES 2018

Last week we posted about Skyworth's CES booth, where the company reportedly demonstrated new household appliances that utilize flexible AMOLED displays. It turns out that Skyworth also unveiled a smart bracelet that utilizes a flexible OLED

Skyworth flexible OLED bracelet-prototype (CES 2018)

This seems to be a very early prototype device, as the engineering is crude and it appears just to show an image - but still it is nice to see companies testing flexible OLED based designs.

Skyworth to introduce AI chip powered OLED TVs in 2018 and utilize flexible OLEDs in new appliances

China-based Skyworth announced that it will introduce new AI-chip powered OLED TVs in 2018. The company says that these new chips will "leverage artificial intelligence to search, identify and refactor images as a means to accurately enhance image quality and restore the immersive aspect, delivering a more lifelike viewing experience".

Skyworth has been producing OLED TVs since 2014, when it introduced its first OLED TV, the Tianchi E980. Since then it released several such TVs, the latest one being the W9 'wallpaper' OLED TV introduced in 2017.

Transparent OLEDs Market Report

Reports suggest Samsung will start production of its 7.3-inch foldable smartphone in November 2018

Samsung has been developing foldable display technologies for a long time, and it seems that a foldable phone/tablet is always just around the corner. In September 2017 Samsung's Mobile Business group President says that it hopes to have a foldable phone in the market in 2018, and according to new reports from Korea Samsung is now expected to start production in November 2018. The phone will have a 7.3-inch display that folds inside.

Samsung in-foldable OLED smartphone concept (2014)2014 foldable phone concept

The Korea Herald reports that the foldable phone will be introduced in December 2018 or early next year. Samsung Electronics already finished the phone's design and specification, and Samsung Display is expected to complete the display development by March 2018. The actual panel production will commence in September 2018.

OLED-Info's flexible, VR/AR, microdisplays, automotive and graphene OLED market reports updated to January 2018

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 January 2018.

The OLED for VR/AR Market Report:

  • Why OLEDs are adopted in almost all VR HMDs
  • What kind of displays are required for VR and AR applications
  • What the future holds for the VR and AR markets
  • Current and future VR and AR systems

The report package provides a great introduction to the emerging VR and AR market, and details the role that OLED displays will have. Read more here!

Korea Herald: LGD will start supplying Apple with flexible OLEDs in 2018

The Korea Herald claims that LG Display is in the final stages of its discussions with Apple, and the Korean OLED maker expects to supply 15-16 million flexible OLEDs to Apple in 2018. According to the report, LG will supply Apple with 6.5" AMOLEDs for its 2018 large iPhone OLED variant.

Apple iPhone X side photo

Samsung Display will remain Apple's main OLED supplier, and this new report says that SDC will supply apple with more than 120 million 5.8" OLEDs in 2018. An earlier report by Business Korea estimated that SDC will supply Apple with 180-200 OLEDs in 2018.

We got a Konica Minolta Pioneer OLED's Christmas flexible OLED card

A few days ago we posted on Konica Minolta Pioneer OLED (KMPO) and its demonstration of simple flexible OLED lighting panels integrated into packaging. My friend Takatoshi Tsujimura, CTO at KMPO, sent me this nice Christmas greeting card, which arrived yesterday, with an integrated small red OLED. The OLED has a mirror finish when off.

This was exciting to get, and the whole card is very well done and feels great. It's a very nice surprise to see something light up in such a thin paper card. KMPO calls this concept "thin paper products with functionality".

Konica Minolta Pioneer OLED demonstrates flexible OLED lighting integrated with paper packaging

In June 2017 Konica Minolta and Pioneer established a new OLED Joint Venture called Konica Minolta Pioneer OLED, which will combine the OLED business and product divisions of both companies, with a focus on automotive applications.

KMPO released a new video today showing a different possible application of its OLED lighting - integration into paper for packaging or greeting cards. KMPO calls this concept "thin paper products with functionality".

Business Korea: Samsung to ship 180-200 million OLEDs to Apple in 2018

According to Business Korea, Samsung Display will ship 50 million flexible AMOLED displays to Apple in 2017. Next year that amount is set to quadruple to 180-200 million panels, as Apple aims to adopt OLED displays in more iPhone models.

Apple iPhone X side photo

Samsung will produce all of these OLEDs bound for Apple at its A3 fab. Initially SDC aimed to construct a new fab for Apple (the A5 fab) but earlier reports suggested that these plans have been delayed. Samsung managed to increase the yields at its A3 line from 60% in early 2017 to around 90% today.

CLSA: OLED capacity spending has peaked, sees no more orders in the near future

Analysts from CLSA returned from a journey to Asia with some interesting notes on the OLED industry. According to CLSA, spending in the OLED industry has peaked and OLED producers are not expecting to place any new equipment orders in the near future. This coincides with IHS estimates of over supply in the flexible OLED market in 2018.

According to CLSA, Samsung has a current capacity in its A3 and A4 (which should be ready by Q2 2018) OLED fabs to produce about 330-385 million OLED displays per year (11 lines, each about 15,000 monthly substrates) which SDC expects to be enough to satisfy Apple's and Samsung Electronics' demand. SDC does not see a strong demand from China's smartphone makers, surprisingly, due to the high cost of OLED displays. Without demand for larger displays (tablets/laptops) or perhaps for foldable devices, SDC's seem to be content with its current OLED capacity.

UBI: Flexible OLED shipments to overtake rigid ones by 2019

UBI Research estimates that in 2019 Flexible OLED shipments will reach 480 million units, overtaking rigid OLED shipments (409 million in 2019) for the first time. In a somewhat confusing PR, UBI seem to suggest that flexible OLED shipments will grow at a CAGR of 41% to reach 1.285 billion units (and $59.4 billion in revenues) in 2022.

Rigid vs flexible AMOLED shipments (2018-2022, UBI)

UBI also provides information on two specific market segments. Full-screen flexible OLED shipments will reach 265 million units in 2018 (a market-share of 82.1% of all flexible OLEDs). Full-screen OLED domination will continue in the future and in 2022 over a billion such displays will ship (market share of 79.5%).