Samsung Electronics has been granted a patent for bendable, flexible displays for television sets and tablets; this patent was granted last year and has caught the attention of the world’s media because it is for both OLED and LCD technology. The patent relates to making flexible display panels for tablets and televisions with screens of at least 8-inch, plus related circuit boards. The reason for this excitement: we have seen flexible, bendable OLED screens before, but LCDs have proven to be extremely difficult to bend.
One of the first curved or flexible display devices sold is the 2010 Samsung Nexus S, which was released with either an AMOLED or Super-LCD display depending on the market. Here, however, the display glass is fixed but pre-bent, which means if you try to bend or twist your Nexus S you will likely damage the device (and please don’t try this at home). We’ve since seen LG release a flexible screen device, the LG G Flex, which may be bent and twisted, plus Samsung have released a number of devices with AMOLED panels that are pre-bent. However, a flexible LCD panel is something else.
There are several advantages to a flexible display. One is that for the larger screens, it is possible to optimize the viewing angle across the whole screen for an audience located at the centre of the display. This is perhaps less relevant for a portable device, where it is not likely to be large enough or far away enough from the user for this to be noticeable (and may also give issues in carrying the tablet). There are other applications for flexible screen technology than televisions and tablets, however: one such use could be for a car dashboard, where a curved display could be designed to minimize distracting reflections. Also, a flexible display may be used to make a device foldable, which could mean it is much easier to transport in a way that keeps the relatively fragile display protected inside the chassis. For a device to be truly flexible, it also needs flexible circuit boards: otherwise, you would very much limit how flexible the screen is when it makes contact with the underlying circuit boards! It is also possible that flexible display technology will be more resistant to shocks, which can crack a less flexible display. This benefit will also drop through to the underlying circuit boards.
Although the patent was granted last year, we have no timescale as to when Samsung may introduce flexible LCD-based television sets or larger tablets. It may be some considerable time yet before the technology is commercially available. We will keep you advised.