Five consumer electronics market segments that will benefit from flexible OLCDs

Rouzet Agaiby, Senior Business Development Engineer

November 20, 2017

While the consumer electronics market is booming with new products being launched regularly, there seems to be a lack of diversity in terms of product designs and device form factor. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the designers’ toolkit hasn’t changed significantly over the past few years.

Conformable 12.1 inch OLCDOne of the key components in many consumer electronics devices is the display and to date this has largely been rigid. The most dominant display technology is liquid crystal displays (LCD). However, LCDs have until now been made on glass which imposes a major design constraint on how displays can be used. A new kind of plastic LCD developed by FlexEnable will change how displays are used in the next generation of consumer electronic products.

Organic LCDs (OLCDs) are made on plastic and hence can be wrapped around objects, conformed to surfaces, and cut into different shapes. Moreover, they are unbreakable because they are glass-free. Their thinness, lightness and robustness open up design freedom that helps designers unlock their creativity and deliver innovative and exciting designs. The advantage of OLCDs is that they use standard liquid crystal technology for which supply chains already exist, and which gives excellent performance in consumer electronic devices. Here are five consumer electronics market segments that can be transformed with flexible OLCD.

Mobile devices

There are millions of smartphones, tablets and laptops out there but their screens are rigid and breakable, either because the displays itself is breakable, or the cover glass is. Either way, consumers often purchase screen protectors and cases to protect the device. OLED displays are increasingly popular for smartphones due to their excellent screen performance in terms of contrast and colour gamut, and they can be made on plastic, albeit laminated to a glass cover lens. These plastic OLED displays are expensive to manufacture, and very difficult to scale to larger sizes. Flexible OLCD on the other hand can be suitable for mobile devices (e.g. tablets) where large area, conformability and unbreakability are considered important features of the display.

Wearables

One of the reasons for the slow growth of the wearables market is due to the unattractive bulky designs of display-enabled wearables. OLCDs are 300 microns thick which is a third of the thickness of standard glass LCDs. Additionally the ability to shape and curve them means that innovative designs that can easily wrap around the wrist are possible. Wearables are not only worn on the wrist but can be on bags, shoes, jewellery or other accessories. The ability to seamlessly integrate a flexible OLCD into accessories gives designers a unique tool set to create designs that can differentiate products and create market demand. OLCDs can be made as reflective displays as well – meaning incredibly low power and long battery lifetime.

Smart Devices

A new segment that is seeing growing consumer interest is smart home devices. In the past, home appliances such as coffee machines, washing machines and fridges used to have simple functions and were mainly operated by knobs and switches. With the increasing connectedness of devices, consumers now expect more functions from their appliances including the display of information and interactivity. One of the noticeable features in most existing smart devices is the streamlined design which make them attractive to use in homes and offices. However, few of them have been fitted with a screen due to the design limitations of rigid displays. Flexible OLCDs will be a game-changer in that they allow to seamlessly integrate a display into different form factors without compromising the design aesthetic.

Toys

Technology is not only reserved for the adults. Children’s toys are also becoming more ‘techie’ and sophisticated. Toys that feature some sort of a screen are usually bulky due to additional padding required to make them more robust and safe for children. As flexible OLCDs are made on plastic, they remove the safety concern, while also allowing to enhance the toy’s design and interactivity.

Robotics

With the dawn of artificial intelligence and the increased role that robotics will play in our lives it will be critical that robots are not only able to perform certain operations perfectly but also display information to end-users to give a more intuitive interaction between robots and humans.  Imagine a robot face whose entire surface is a conformed display like a human face!

The applications of flexible OLCD are of course not limited to the above consumer electronics market segments. With OLCD currently being transferred into mass production, product designers, engineers and innovators will soon have access to this technology, and the possibilities are endless.

For more information on flexible OLCD please contact info@flexenable.com

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