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What are Flexible Displays?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 16, 2024
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For the past twenty years, engineers have been pursuing flexible display technology. Researchers are working to combine polymer and metal-foil substrates together with thin film transistor (TFT) backplates that will make the flexible display a commercial reality. The goal is to produce a thin, flexible, clear substrate with the barrier properties of glass.

The flexible display will offer many benefits over the display technologies we have at the moment. Factors such as a reduction in thickness and weight, improved durability and a non-linear form are all positive aspects of the flexible display. The potential uses are so diverse that printing, electronic and plastic companies are all investing heavily in research to achieving the product.

Think of any product that uses a screen at the moment, and it can be applied to flexible displays. Mobile phones, MP3 players, personal digital assistants, computers and electronic books can all benefit from this technology. Once flexible displays have arrived, there will be a whole new range of products available which could not have been produced before. Imagine the possibilities -- televisions that are so thin and flexible they can be rolled up and taken with you wherever you go; reusable electronic newspapers that can download the latest news, then be rolled up and used again the next day; electronic wallpaper that can display images such as paintings or views of the world. The possibilities for the future use of flexible displays are endless.

The first products likely to use flexible displays are electronic books, paper and signage. At the moment, liquid-crystal technology is a leader towards flexible displays for products such as electronic books. However, there are some performance trade-offs. Factors in the trade-off include brightness and definition in comparison to battery life. Liquid-crystal technology has low power consumption, which makes it a strong contender for the flexible display.

Some researchers are concentrating on organic liquid technology such as organic light-emitting diode (OLED) for the future of full-color flexible displays. OLEDs are self-luminous and do not require backlighting, diffusers or polarizers to operate. This reduces size and weight. It also offers a wider viewing angle and lower power consumption. OLED is not as bright as some other displays, but research is underway to improve this.

As with all new technology, the price is expected to be high when flexible displays finally appear. However, once the technology is in place and mass production begins, the price will fall. It should not be too long before everything we view will be through clear, scratch free, flexible displays.

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Discussion Comments
By anon271541 — On May 27, 2012

Is is possible to get the bendable LED displays in different shapes like a hollow circle, ellipse and triangle?

By anon71132 — On Mar 17, 2010

oled flexible signage. How far out in time are we looking at before we see this technology? How would i learn about this, for a start up manufacturing entity?

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