The State of Flexible Display Technology

Flex-Dispaly

When we think of displays, we typically think of the screens we see every day: the flat, rigid, backlit panels on phones and computers.

For decades, rectangular pieces of glass or plastic have been the norm in most consumer electronics. But that’s changing as foldable, bendable, and curved display technology is poised to make breakthroughs in durability, design, and performance.

Over the past ten years, flexible display technology has gotten more advanced in applications across industries. Azumo’s light guide film, for example, can be as thin as a piece of paper at 30 microns, which means you can wrap it around any curved surface and still get the same quality.

Here are three exciting use cases for flexible display technology to watch out for.

1: Rollable Smartphones Provide Increased Portability and Durability

Imagine rolling up your phone like a scroll every time you finish using it. 

Flexible display technology isn’t new to smartphones. The iPhone X has a bendable display to bend around the edges, and the Samsung Galaxy Round pioneered a curved smartphone design back in 2013 for improved ergonomic use.

But just recently, the fully rollable phone became a reality at CES 2021 when TCL and LG unveiled concepts for phones with rolling screens.

The design makes displays much larger than the standard fixed display size and more portable. For convenience, some consumers want the form factor to be as small as possible and the display to be as large as possible for an optimal viewing experience, which is possible with a rollable phone.

Another key benefit of a flexible display in smartphones is that it makes the device more durable. Phones with this type of surface illumination technology can flex under impact, as opposed to the easily shatterable glass displays we’re used to.

2: Flexible Displays Enable Wearables that Conform to the Body

Wearable devices need to be visible in sunlight, power-efficient, and comfortable to be effective in a wide range of use cases, such as while exercising outdoors. 

Advances in display technology have made the first two possible thanks to frontlit reflective LCD and longer battery life. But some wearables, especially those intended for medical and not purely aesthetic or practical reasons, are not always comfortable on a body in motion if they rely on a flat screen.

With flexible displays, we may start to see body-conforming designs incorporated into watches and other devices that curve around the body, instead of just a flat display attached to a wristband or wrap. This can make people who stand to benefit from wearable devices more inclined to use them. 

Consider a wearable heart rate measurement device for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that can predict a stress response. A thin, curved band that the child can wear around their wrist or arm may be more comfortable than a clunky watch or belt.

3: Surface Illumination on Steering Wheels Gives Visible and Accessible Info to Drivers

The automotive industry is ripe for display technology innovation. Flexible displays in particular can transform one of the most important curved surfaces in every car: the steering wheel.

There have been several developments in steering wheel displays over the past decade. Back in 2012, BMW released a sports steering wheel with an OLED, while more recently, Tesla filed a patent for a steering wheel with several touch-sensitive panels.

A full touch screen steering wheel may be further off, but steering wheels with surface illumination are now within reach with ultra-thin, flexible light guide films. A wheel with a light display can provide car and environment information to the driver in real time, no need to take their eyes off the road. 

Plus, frontlit flexible display technology also performs well in a variety of lighting scenarios, from driving at noon to driving at night.

Flexible Display Technology Gives Designers Limitless Possibilities

The announcement of two companies’ rollable phone designs at this year’s CES sends a strong signal that the future of display tech is flexible.

Beyond consumer electronics, wearables, and cars, flexible display technology has the potential to disrupt decades-old design norms in all kinds of devices, from medical to manufacturing.

To learn more about how you can apply Azumo’s flexible display technology to your next design project, get in touch.

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