Thoughts about Samsung's flexible OLED program, is 2013 plausible?

In early 2012, Samsung said they aim to start mass production of plastic-based flexible OLEDs towards the end of 2012. But 2012 is almost over, and new reports suggest that Samsung delayed their plans to early 2013.

But is Samsung really that close to mass production? One of the major hurdles towards plastic based OLEDs is the encapsulation technology. Back in early 2012 Samsung said they will use Vitex' technology (which they bought in 2010) - but this technology is difficult to scale and is very slow. When Samsung delayed the launch to 2013, it was reported that the main issue indeed was the slow encapsulation (that, and low uniformity).

There are some other options flexible encapsulation though. For example, we know that Beneq sold a large-area coating system to a "large Asian maker". Another example is Universal Display's single-layer encapsulation technology which may be evaluated by Samsung and/or LG (it was hinted thus in UDC's last conference call). But are these technologies ready for mass production? I don't think so.

Samsung's IT and mobile communications chief JK Shin seems to try and disillusion everyone, saying that "there is a long way to go before flexible display manufacturing technology matures." - it seems that the technology hurdles are more difficult than Samsung thought back in early 2012.

So Samsung may have simply jumped the gun a bit here a year ago. They may still try and prove right with some kind of production in early 2013 - maybe with low volume of small flexible OLED displays. But I don't think we'll see mass production of large displays suitable for the Galaxy S4 for example. I think this will have to wait till 2014 or even 2015. Of course, I'm ready to be pleasently surprised!

Posted: Dec 06,2012 by Ron Mertens