New Manufacturing Technique Brings Bendable LCD Displays One Step Closer

Here at the hub, we’ve posted a little bit on bendable, flexible OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays.  Until recently, it was a cool and remarkably expensive gadget that was destined for a life of prototypes and one-off displays.  Now, however, a joint project between Universal Display, a New Jersey company, and Arizona State University’s Flexible Display Center have shown that it is possible to produce these displays with the same technology that is currently used for LCD televisions.  Looks like flexible screens on cell phones and MP3 players might not be too far off in the future after all.

The new production process works on the same exact equipment as the LCD equipment but with a few tweaks.  The difference comes in the substrate used during the process.  For LCD televisions, the transistors that make the pixels light up are deposited on glass at high temperature.  But in order to make the flexible OLED screens, plastic must be substituted for the brittle glass.  That presented a problem as, at the normal temperatures of deposition, the plastic screen would melt away into a puddle of unhappy consumerism.  So the researchers turned down the temperature dial, a trick that is known to cause imperfections in the electronics.

However, they found a proprietary way to make sure that the quality of the screen was not compromised during the colder production process.  Effectively, these screens could be produced with the same equipment and possibly at the same (if not slightly higher) price as LCD displays.  If this is the case, the introduction of this technology into the market would occur at a rapid pace, meaning that these screens could make their way into major electronics like cell phones, MP3 players, laptops and even televisions sooner rather than later.

A bendable display is not a technological marvel that will save lives or stop world hunger but, as an advancement over the current standard flat screen display, it shows great promise for a bright and bendable future.  Don’t believe it?  Take a look at the video below.

Future uses for this type of screen are aplenty.  A thin and cheap display could turn walls and doors into televisions.  Even clothes could be embedded with a thin and flexible screen to show the world that you are a customized individual.  They do it with cars, why not clothes?  These displays could be the spinning rims of the fashion world.  Not to mention, they’re probably a bit more comfortable than a red leather pantsuit.  The advantage to such a screen is not only in where it can be placed.  Future screens might just get a few extra points in durability, as well.  Imagine dropping a cell phone and not having to rue that mistake over a broken screen.

The writing is on the wall.  The keyboard and mouse are going to disappear at some point and there will be a better, more effective interface between man and machine to take their place.  These flexible displays will be part of that next generation of computing, bringing smaller and more portable devices to places that are hitherto unforeseen.  This bendable screen is not the sole technology that will usher in a new era of computer usage, but it is a building block upon which these new devices can be based.  At least these new OLED screens will make a cracked or busted display a mere tragedy of the past.

Andrew Kessel
Andrew Kessel
Andrew is a recent graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, MA with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. While at Northeastern, he worked on a Department of Defense project intended to create a product that adsorbs and destroys toxic nerve agents and also worked as part of a consulting firm in the fields of battery technology, corrosion analysis, vehicle rollover analysis, and thermal phenomena. Andrew is currently enrolled in a Juris Doctorate program at Boston College School of Law.
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