Five flexible technologies that will bring greater design freedom

November 07, 2016

The very idea that devices, specifically wearable devices, can be flexible means that some of the key component parts also need to be flexible.

Both research institutions and commercial players have been working on developing flexible components to solve certain design challenges and create new product form factors. In this blog we take a look at just some of the flexible components that will enable new disruptive devices.

Flexible batteries

With more wearable devices and smartphones being developed to fulfil new customer demands, it is now increasingly important for the battery to be as thin and flexible as the rest of the hardware. So it’s little surprise that companies such as Samsung, LG and TDK have been working on batteries that can flex and conform. The last company to hit the headlines is Panasonic who unveiled a flexible lithium ion battery in September this year. Presently, its capacity means that Panasonic’s battery would only be able to power battery-light devices such as fitness bands, rather than high-consumption smartphones, but the company seems off to a good start.

Flexible image sensors

Flexible fingerprint sensorFlexible, plastic-based image sensors have the potential to revolutionise many devices, from fingerprint scanners to large area X-ray detectors. By utilising organic thin-film transistor (OTFTs) technology, image sensors can be flexed and conformed over very small or large areas, offering several advantages over their metal-based counterparts. The applications for flexible image sensors range from medical and veterinary – where conformed X-ray detectors can capture more of a patient’s anatomy in a single image capture, to security and biometrics – enabling sensing areas of any size and on almost any surface.

 

Flexible memory

In another recent industry development, we are a step closer to flexible memory – another component necessary to create compelling flexible mobile or wearable devices. Researchers have now developed a flexible, non-volatile, optical memory thin-film transistor device which will no doubt send many device makers jumping for joy. Despite current efforts only attaining minimal storage capacity, the proof-of-concept has most definitely been met with optimism.

Flexible pressure sensors

Being able to integrate flexible pressure sensors with devices will potentially open up a raft of new opportunities for consumer electronics. A good example is the FlexCase developed by Microsoft in collaboration with the University of Applied Science Upper Austria. It combines a flexible e-paper display, which serves as a smartphone cover, with a flexible pressure sensor that uses piezoelectricity current to power the device. By applying pressure to the cover and bending it users can flip pages, zoom in and out and navigate pages in a very intuitive way.

Flexible cases for smartwtches

Flexible displays

Flexible OLCD smartwatchToday, approximately 90% of the displays sold globally are liquid crystal displays (LCDs), and this is no surprise given the technology’s low power consumption, excellent video quality and low cost. At FlexEnable, we have developed bendable, glass-free organic liquid crystal displays (OLCD) that are now a real option for product designers. They are thin, lightweight and shatterproof and suitable for applications ranging from displays for automotive and wearables to digital signage.

If you want to find out more about our flexible display technology, get in touch – displays@flexenable.com.


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