UK Firm Touts Light, Flexible LCD Panels That Don’t Need To Sit On Glass

December 14, 2016 by Dave Haynes

As seen in Display Daily

A Cambridge, UK company, FlexEnable, has started demonstrating a new type of LCD display that doesn’t need to be married with glass, has a fraction of the weight, and is flexible.

The organic liquid crystal display (OLCD) technology supports full colour and runs smooth video, with the company suggesting digital signage is among numerous potential use cases, along with things like automobile dashboards and consumer electronics.

FlexEnable says in a press release Tuesday that its engineers have developed a 12.1” glass-free, conformable OLCD display, “marking an important milestone in the commersialisation of large area flexible displays. The technology is compatible with existing LCD production lines, and is scalable to even larger area displays to meet the immediate market needs for applications including automotive, consumer electronics, and digital signage.”

The company says it uses organic transistors on a plastic sheet, making the display four times thinner (less than 0.3 mm) and more than 10 times lighter than conventional glass-based displays. These characteristics, combined with the OLCD’s robustness and ability to conform to small and large surfaces, bring unique benefits to products and unlock design freedom that is not possible with glass displays. FlexEnable is already supplying small and large area display prototypes to strategic partners for integration into the next generation of products. FlexEnable has already demonstrated plastic LCD displays with radius-of-curvature below 3cm, causing these partners to rethink where and how LCD displays can be used.

In parallel, FlexEnable is working with Asian display manufacturers to support the transfer of its OLCD platform into conventional flat panel display (FPD) lines, enabling a full range of plastic LCD display shapes and sizes. Due to the use of low-cost plastics and the low-temperature manufacturing process (below 100°C), FlexEnable’s technology is the lowest cost flexible display technology available today.

“With the development of the 12.1” display we have proven the scalability of our OLCD technology,” says Chuck Milligan, CEO of FlexEnable. “While LCD is the dominant and trusted display technology in the market today, glass-based LCDs can’t deliver the conformability, robustness and thinness requirements in new applications we are seeing across many sectors including automotive, consumer electronics and wearables.

“The capability,” says Milligan, “to create flexible plastic LCDs on small and large areas enables us to address these market opportunities and to work with end-user companies on product prototypes, while simultaneously putting the supply chain in place for the mass manufacture of plastic LCDs. For end-user companies, this means that they can specify a wide range of flexible display sizes and shapes to create product designs not possible with glass-based displays.”

The company will show the 12.1” OLCD prototype in the Printed Electronics Applied in Automotive conference track at CES on Jan. 6th at 2:15 in the LVCC, North Hall, N264. If I am interpreting that correctly, they don’t have a booth, but will pull this out of a travel case to do show and tell.

The concept images look pretty interesting. This is the first I’ve seen of this tech, and I won’t pretend to be more than vaguely knowledgeable about LCD manufacturing … but I think it’s safe to assume this is something to watch. Itcould be years before this gets into full commercial production, but imagine the possilities if designs are not constrained by weight, shape or in many ways, surface material.

Leave a comment