Not waiting for OLED: Conformed, plastic LCDs coming to your car soon!

Simon Jones, Commercial Director

October 12, 2015

We have had a fascinating few weeks talking to leading automotive brands and their tier 1 suppliers about plastic conformable displays for car interiors. The trend in car displays is ever increasing size, and this is one of the factors that is making this an interesting, high-growth segment for display manufacturers.

Cast your mind back a few years. The only displays in your car were probably the display on the radio and maybe a small LCD between the dials in the dashboard.

Flexible displays will expand design options in the automotive industryNow the radio has become a centre console system for entertainment and navigation that can be larger than an iPad and electronic displays are starting to usurp the mechanical dials in the dashboard completely.

Integrating displays in cars

When these ever larger displays are flat and glass-based, they become a real issue to integrate with the curved and ergonomically optimised surfaces of the car. And as a large lump of glass, they are a safety issue too. The answer? New display technologies that remove the glass and allow the display to be formed to the interior surfaces of the car.

These new display technologies will create a design revolution in cars that won't be limited to the dashboard and the centre console. There are many new applications that displays can address as they become thin, light, shatterproof and conformable to any surface. Now a much greater proportion of the car's interior surfaces can become interactive. For example, a curved display on the A-Pillar of the car can replace the wing mirror (for increased aero dynamic efficiency) or show the driver what is behind the pillar (for increased safety).

So, the key question is no longer whether glass-free, conformable displays will be needed for future car designs. It is, what technology will enable this to happen sooner rather than later?

OLED vs OLCD displays

There is a widely held assumption that colour and video capable flexible displays will have to be OLED, but this is a perception that our team of engineers is working hard to prove wrong. We have shown that our fully industrialised process for building glass-free active-matrix backplanes can be used to make conformable, plastic LCDs. This is a compelling alternative to OLED because LCD is a familiar and proven technology in automotive whereas OLED is still several years away from adoption in cars, even in its glass-based form (because of its severe encapsulation requirements in challenging environments such as cars).

FlexEnable is already working with volume display makers to make plastic LCDs a real option for car designers in the very short term. Our unique organic OLCD technology offers lower complexity, technical risk and can be manufactured at a lower cost. Talk to us at displays@flexenable.com to find out more.

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