Where the Foldable/Flexible Display Technology is Taking Us

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Mobile phone developers have tried to make smaller devices with bigger and seamless screen displays. The concept may have failed to get into the zenith of reality but another brilliant idea came to arise in this field of technology – the idea of bending, flexing or folding a phone.

Foldable displays have been the “thing” of sci-fi myths for ages, and various device prototypes have been created and tested… yet nearly nothing have brought it into an actual product. But that won’t be applicable for the intensive studies conducted by innovators who continually hunt for the latest trends in the mobile and smartphone world. The famous pioneer for this technology is South Korea-based electronics giant Samsung. In the previous years, researchers at Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology have designed a prototype of a seamless foldable display that opens up similar to that of a usual smarpthone. This advancement in foldable OLED screen technology means that a display is flexible enough to be folded twice like a sheet of paper without creasing.

What Makes It Foldable?

Let’s owe everything to flexible OLED or organic light-emitting diode. This kind of OLED has substrates made of very flexible plastics or metallic foils on which the electroluminescent organic semiconductor is lodged. This gives the device the ability to be rolled or bent while still in use. Foldable OLEDs are durable and lightweight. Today, industrial and academic groups focus on the use of OLED in fabricating rollable or foldable displays. It is useful in cell phone and PDAs since it can reduce breakage, a major reason for repair or return of product.

How it was developed?

Samsung was the only known company who pursued this innovative concept of foldable screen devices. The electronics giant has its own research institute who brought us revolutionary products that changed our lifestyle. So how did Samsung arrive with such an intricate yet fabulous foldable display?

Way back 2008, the leading company has introduced its OLED foldable mobile phone at the FPD conference and in 2011, Samsung came up with a fresh design that incorporates smartphone and AMOLED tech. The latest, foldable and creaseless AMOLED display can be folded into two – effectively making bigger tablets fit into your pocket.

The only major flaw of the newly-designed foldable screen is the crease produced at the middle of the display at the time it is fold. So the electronics team resolved the imperfection by combining silicon rubber, two protective glass panels and a pair of AMOLED displays.

The secret in the latest design is that the dynamic matrix OLED display is essentially mounted on a flat piece of silicon rubber. This type of hyper-elastic material can bear huge elastic strain from stretches. Plus the device is protected by a pair of glass shields which serve as touchscreens. With the use of accessible OLED production methods, the Samsung team came up with the idea that bendable screen can work out with just minimal adjustments to the technology. This means that it is a practical thing to mount OLED units on a different substrate and use materials that have almost similar optical properties. They also have the capacity to be bonded to each other very robustly in the ultimate display “sandwich”. Their closely associated optical qualities signify there’s no distortion to the imagery, and the joint in the screen when stretched is almost undetectable.

Unfolding the Advantages

Compared to glass, rollable or foldable displays have a lot of advantages to be proud of. First is better durability. Glass is breakable and sensitive to creases while OLED displays are far more hard-wearing and resilient by nature. Second, lighter in weight. Obviously, glass is heavier than flexible OLED screens. Third is thinner dimensions; OLED displays are foldable and therefore fits into your pocket. Lastly, the device is productive in the sense that it can be perfectly curved and practically useful in today’s sophisticated lifestyle.

Putting Samsung at the Frontline

History gives us various accounts on the evolution of display technology. In fact, this technology has been here for many years now and significant changes have seen throughout the ages. Flat panel display started it off 40 years ago and today we have entered into a new dimension of improvements and re-inventions. However, it can be said that the desired changes for this technology remained at its infancy even now. Before Samsung came to the spotlight, E Ink has developed a rollable electronic paper display. While in CES 2006, Philips exhibited its own prototype of rollable display without using electricity. And in 2007, Philips Polymer Vision was inspired to make its own rollable display based from the concept of E Ink’s electrophoretic technology.

Today, Samsung leads the discovery of new applications for foldable displays by virtue of their product named “Youm”. It is their first flexible mobile phone that uses OLED and has a curved display screen. Compared to traditional LCD displays, Youm has better power efficiency, lighter weight and longer durability.

The appearance of rollable screen devices is another potential technology that adds to the list of human breakthroughs. As recent discoveries and innovations continue to proliferate, we may caught by surprise where foldable display technology is taking us.

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