The cost structure of flexible displays

Why OLCD is the the lowest cost flexible display technology.

Paul Cain, Strategy Director

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LCD production has grown in both average size and volume over the past few decades, and today, remains the dominant display technology in use. During this time, there have been huge advances in LCD performance on almost every front – colour, contrast, luminance, resolution, pixel density, power efficiency and others.

Today’s global capacity for display production is over 200 million square metres per year – enough to cover an area two and a half times that of Manhattan.

Unsurprisingly, production costs of LCD have fallen alongside these performance advancements. With highly automated and high-yielding manufacturing processes optimised over many years in factories of increasing scale, the cost structure of glass LCD displays today is dominated by the component materials themselves, from display cell and polarizers, to backlight, driver chips and many others. Non-material costs such as labour, depreciation and indirect costs are relatively small part of the overall cost, as is often the case with highly optimised processes.

Organic LCD (OLCD) is a breakthrough flexible display technology that uses plastic films substrates instead of glass, resulting in flexible LCDs that are thinner, lighter, shatterproof and conformable around surfaces. OLCD can achieve this because its transistors are made from organic semiconductor materials instead of silicon, and can be manufactured at low temperature on plastic films in repurposed flat panel display (FPD) production lines originally built for glass LCD.

As well as being manufacturable in existing FPD lines, OLCD harnesses much of the existing and highly optimised LCD supply chain. Component materials used in glass LCDs such as polarisers, backlights, driver chips and many the other materials from the LCD production cycle can also be used in OLCD manufacture depending on the use case. Since these common components are those which dominate the cost structure of LCDs, the manufacturing cost of OLCD is similar to glass LCD, making it the lowest cost flexible display technology.

In addition to cost, OLCD carries over many of the other strengths of LCD into a flexible form factor, including large area scalability, high brightness, long lifetime, and can directly benefit from many of the continued innovations in glass LCD, such as mini-LED backlight and quantum dot colour enhancement.

Read more about OLCD here, and if you’d like more information on flexible OLCD manufacture, please get in touch with  FlexEnable at