It seems that the winds of tech are blowing in a definite direction, and that direction is a ‘flexible’ one. Flexible display technology has been advancing at an incredible rate over the past few years, and shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. As we are coming closer than ever before to having fully flexible displays as a piece of consumer tech, we take a quick look at industry trends: how we got here, what’s happening now and where are we heading.
Looking back: a few busy years
Although the first example of a flexible display was the e-paper (developed in 1974 by Xerox Palo Alto Research Center), things haven’t really taken off until recently when mass production of organic thin film transistors (OTFT) in the early 2000s made flexible tech a more tangible consumer good. Last year we saw Samsung trot out the Galaxy Note Edge with a curved edge capable of showing notifications and text, as well as Japanese firm Semiconductor Energy Laboratory debut a 5.9-inch display capable of being folded over 100,000 times without damage.
What’s happening now
Recently, a partnership was announced between FlexEnable, developer of flexible displays and sensors based in Cambridge, and Chunghwa Picture Tube (CPT), a Taiwanese display company. FlexEnable’s flexible displays provided a base for these two technology giants to manufacture a completely flexible, glass-free, colourful AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) display – a giant step towards flexible goods for the average consumer.
It was only a matter of time before Apple joined the flexible display hype: the iPhone 6 and 6s have barely made their market debut and already the rumours are flying that Apple could introduce flexible and curved edge-to-edge displays with the iPhone 7 sometime next year.
It should come as no surprise that the flexible displays are predicted to take over the market. According to a recent press release by Market and Market, the global display market is projected to reach $155.54 billion by 2020 and it’s largely in part to flexible displays: another press release by IHS Online Newsroom predicts that flexible display revenue will make up 15% of the entire display market by 2024.
So keep a weather eye, because you’ll be able to own some version of the Wove Band sooner than you think.