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A flexible future awaits displays

Posted: 30 Dec 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:display? electronics flexible? OLEDs?

So what can you do with printed electronics? There are a bunch of applications waiting to be exploited, ranging from foldable, rollable, biodegradable and other types of everyday electronics wear to flexible electronic displays.

With the consumer electronics market being one of the largest, small steps are being taken to move flexible electronics into the mainstream. One bellwether is Applied Materials, through its Display Business Group-AKT. The company has recently become an associate member of the Flexible Display Center (FDC) at Arizona State University, which could prove to be a crucial step for volume production of flexible displays. First for the military then for consumer devices.

Flexible Display Center researchers at ASU have developed new flexible display designs for the military that can be applied to consumer electronics devices.

The FDC is a government/university research partnership whose mission is to advance the development and commercialization of full-color flexible electronic display technologies. It's the result of a 10-year cooperative agreement between the U.S. Army and Arizona State University. The FDC partners with LG Display, HP, E Ink, Universal Display Corp., DuPont Teijin Films, EV Group, as well as display technology integrators such as General Dynamics, Raytheon, Boeing, Honeywell, and L3 Communications.

"Applied can test its industry-leading thin-film deposition technology using FDC's infrastructure and produce first versions of a new advanced thin-film transistor (TFT) technology for flexible displays," said Gregory B. Raupp, FDC director.

OLED production
In another volume fab development, the new Center for Organic Materials and Electronic Devices Dresden (COMEDD) facility in Dresden, Germany, is gearing up to manufacture OLED displays using its roll-to-roll coating facility to make OLEDs on flexible substrates.

According to market research firm IDTechEx Inc. 2009 will launch a new wave of electronic consumer products powered by printed electronics. One example includes an e-book reader from Plastic Logic built on a plastic substrate, making it "thinner and larger than other versions," said Raghu Das, CEO at IDTechEx.

At a conference in Japan, Samsung showed off a mobile phone prototype with a flexible display that folds like a book.

Those mentioned above are still microsteps in developing a viable consumer devices market for printed electronics. Advances in materials, interconnections and scalability are needed before flexible displays and electronics become wearable and biodegradable.

Given the challenges and the steady progress, flexible electronic displays should become more entrenched in consumer devices in 2009. But we need to wait a few more years to see them at Wal-Mart stores.

- Nicolas Mokhoff
EE Times

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