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Flexible displays face long road to mass acceptance

Posted: 04 Feb 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:tft displays? flat panel display? lcd?

While the future of flexible displays remains bright, the current lack of a significant &quote;killer app&quote; coupled with hurdles in implementing cost-effective production signal a protracted ramp up for the technology, according to experts at the Flexible Displays and Microelectronics Conference Tuesday (Feb. 1).

In the U.S. alone, the market for flexible displays is projected to reach $9.7 billion, about 10 percent of the overall display market by 2010, said Kyuha Chung, vice president of the Flat Panel Display R&D Team for the LCD Business of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. But viable products are still several years away, with Samsung's roadmap taking a multistaged approach to producing a flexible display.

By 2007, Samsung is expected to launch a rugged plastic display with a thin-film transistor (TFT) amorphous silicon backplane, using existing LCD production techniques, for mobile products. By 2010, the company hopes to unveil an organic TFT display manufactured through roll-type processes.

"If we can adopt roll-to-roll processing, we believe manufacturing costs will come down," Chung told EE Times in an interview.

Reaching those goals will involve overcoming obstacles in plastic substrate characteristics, developing low-temperature deposition processes and achieving reliable handling processes, Chung added.

Beyond technical issues, several speakers said the economic justification for flexible technology remains an obstacle since there's currently no overwhelming need for the technology as LCDs continue to advance and dominate the market.

"If flex displays are to threaten current display technologies, then both performance and prices must be at least comparable," said Mark Overwijk of Philips Research. He agreed with Samsung's Chung that rollable, full-color, high-resolution displays remains years away.

Willy Shih of Eastman Kodak said flexible display makers would have a better chance of success if they aim for market niches first.

"The real question is, do you want to go head to head with LCDs?" said Shih. He urged flexible display makers to "find a market where quality is good enough or where they value your unique vector of differentiation."

Kodak has taken that approach with its flexible display technology based on cholesteric materials. The technology, which avoids complex processes like vacuum coating and photolithography, is intended for relatively low-tech, high-volume applications such as credit cards, tags and shelf labels.

- Spencer Chin

EE Times

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