Enabling non-rectangular and curved form factors with conformable displays

OLCD can be curved to any surface, cut to any shape, and even include apertures.

Jonathan Huggins, Senior Engineer

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Organic Liquid Crystal Display (OLCD) is a glass-free display technology developed by FlexEnable to enable the entire display to be manufactured on a rugged plastic substrate with excellent optical performance. OLCD is extremely thin, light and shatterproof, and provides a flexible display solution for applications beyond smartphone and smart watch use cases.

OLCD offers a number of benefits currently unavailable to flexible AMOLED, including large area low-cost manufacturing, long lifetimes, high brightness – allowing for a broader range of applications. OLCD can be conformed onto curves with a bend radius as low as 10mm, and uniquely, cut into a variety of shapes, creating form factors far removed from the conventional flat rectangle.

How are non-rectangular forms achieved?

The structure of OLCD is perfectly suited to delivering curved, non-rectangular form factors and can even contain apertures.

Ultra-thin, non-birefringent TAC (Tri-acetyl cellulose) is used as the substrate upon which Organic Thin Film Transistors (OTFTs) and colour filter arrays are manufactured. The resulting TAC-based liquid crystal cells can be easily cut into a range of shapes using technologies that are widely available in existing LCD display manufacturing facilities such as blade or laser cutting.

A further benefit of OLCD technology is that it’s fundamentally more robust to harsh environmental testing than OLED which allows for much simpler encapsulation requirements. This provides more freedom in the form factors that can be achieved – for example using ultra-narrow borders.

Where can OLCD be used?

Non-rectangular and curved display shapes offer new design freedoms for existing, as well as new, display applications that simply aren’t feasible on glass. Use cases in the automotive sector include unique wing e-mirror design, centre console and A-pillar displays designed to seamlessly fit to the curved interior surfaces. In consumer electronics new form factors can be considered in areas such as 360 degree wrapround displays for smart speakers and digital signage around pillars.

Where next for this technology?

The same principles used to achieve non-rectangular curved OLCD displays can also be applied to a wide range of other applications based on Liquid Crystal Cells built on TAC film. These LC Optics allow complex curved surfaces to actively modulate, focus and steer light, bringing almost unimaginable new functionality to mobile devices, wearables and automotive, where the unique 3D formability of the film means it can be applied to follow the contours of any surface –  such as automotive windows.

With a $100bn addressable market for FlexEnable’s technology, manufacturing partners are preparing for production for major OEM/Brand partners designing-in active surfaces to next generation products. If you are looking to reshape your product design then please get in touch with FlexEnable at info@flexenable.com for more information.