Flexible OLCD – A complementary display technology to flexible OLED
August 10, 2020
Today the global display market is around $120Bn, comprising mainly LCD and OLED displays. For LCD the market is dominated by glass-based, rigid displays aside from a smaller number of curved monitors and TVs where the glass is gently curved to a radius of around 2 meters. Whilst flexible OLED displays are already manufactured in volume, they are presently costly and as a result focused on flagship smart phone and smart watch applications.
A viable flexible display solution is needed for mainstream applications which require large size displays at lower cost, especially when the display needs to be very bright with long lifetime. These applications include smart home devices, automotive, notebooks, tablets, TVs and digital signage – together around an $80Bn addressable market.
This is where FlexEnable’s Organic LCD (OLCD) comes in. OLCD is a glass-free display technology that combines the benefits of LCD with the inherent flexibility of a high-performance organic-thin-film transistor (OTFT) backplane (which replaces the amorphous-silicon backplane used in glass displays). It enables conformable and shapeable displays that can be cost-effectively scaled to large area sizes in the same way glass LCD is scaled.
Let’s take a look at some of the applications for which OLCD is a viable flexible display solution.
Smart home devices
Lower-cost flexible displays create new classes of smart home device. For example, many smart speaker designs today are round or cylindrical, but glass displays are flat which limits their incorporation in curved form factors. By using OLCD, wrap-around screens are possible – they provide a better user experience by enabling new audio-visual use cases without compromising the product design and aesthetics.
Automotive applications present a tremendous opportunity for OLCD. Modern automotive interiors feature sweeping curves, interrupted only by a flat display. Demand for curved displays is high for such applications, but no currently available display technology fits the bill completely. LCDs have been utilised successfully in automotive applications for a number of years however. Despite the stringent requirements – which have led to bespoke qualification of parts for automotive suitable displays, the LCD industry has met the challenge and have become the default choice for car interiors. Any implementation of flexible OLCD could build upon this supply chain, accelerating the adoption of a new display technology in the automotive market. In 2019, Novares demonstrated several applications of OLCD including an S-shaped centre console and curved side view mirror replacements (see image).
Notebooks and tablets
While both flexible OLED and flexible OLCD would allow thinner and lighter screens in this application, the cost of flexible OLED for notebook-sized displays is currently very high, though costs will fall over the coming years. Flexible OLCD cost structure is similar to glass LCDs – it uses many of the same low cost components in its construction except the glass, making it at least 100g lighter and 0.5mm thinner for a notebook-sized display. Moreover, OLCD enables bezel-less displays allowing laptops and tablets with larger displays without increasing the weight.
TVs and monitors
LCD TVs are lower cost and dominate the TV market, but haven’t been able to achieve the ultra-high contrast performance of OLED TVs. Recent developments in glass LCD technology have made it possible to increase the LCD contrast by stacking two LCD displays on top of each other: dual cell LCDs. While this approach significantly improves the contrast ratio of the display (by 1000 times), the display becomes much thicker as four sheets of glass are required which also adds to the cost of the module and requires a brighter backlight and additional compensation films.
The issues of increased thickness and lack of true pixel-level local dimming can be overcome with dual-cell OLCD technology. The TAC film onto which OLCD is built is ten times thinner than glass, meaning that the two cells can be brought together with a separation that is much smaller than the pixel pitch. In addition, the display architecture becomes much thinner, resulting in a simpler stack at lower cost with higher optical performance than a glass-based version.
When displays are made of glass, the weight becomes a significant factor for larger displays, where strong supporting gantries or frames are often needed. This limits where and how glass displays can be installed into and onto buildings and objects.
OLCD technology provides all of the benefits of LCD for advertising in terms of brightness, colour performance, video-rate capability and cost, but with the clear advantage of being glass-free, thin, light and conformable. It can be scaled to large sizes allowing even large digital signage displays to be conformed to pillars, street furniture, vehicle exteriors and retail interiors.
If you are looking for a scalable, low cost and long lifetime flexible display technology, then please get in touch with FlexEnable at firstname.lastname@example.org.