You’ve seen OLED displays if you’ve shopped for a TV recently. Samsung has been using OLED technology for some time and is now even including it in their new Galaxy S6 Edge smartphone which bends the screen around one long edge of the phone. LG is also producing large-scale, super thin TVs with OLED technology.
Janice Mahon, who serves as VP of Technology Commercialization for Universal Display Corp. says, “One of the things that sets OLED technology apart from LCD and other technologies is its intrinsic ability to be flattened and rolled. We’ve been focused on rollable OLEDs for over 15 years.”
“This technology, I believe, is really going to change how we use displays dramatically,” Mahon continues. “We’ll see foldable displays, we’ll see smartphones that go back to clamshells opening up to a full sized screen [and even] wearables like wrist-based displays.”
The new technology is not without its problems. The main reason we don’t see OLEDs everywhere is the manufacturing quality control and cost reduction that has to improve before we see the technology in mainstream products.
“One of the challenges is simply improving manufacturing techniques to reduce defects,” Mahon says. That’s because of the way OLEDs are commonly made right now, which involves a massive swath of substrate from which multiple displays are cut.
“Envision a large glass substrate,” Mahon says. “If you are building cellphone displays on that substrate, if you have 100 or 200 that it gets cut into, if there’s one point defect you can recover 199 cellphone displays, and only throw away one. If, on that same piece of glass, you build two TVs and you have one point defect, you may be in the position of having to throw one of your two TVs away.”
That’s part of the reason OLED displays haven’t taken over the marketplace as quickly as some would like, and it’s part of why OLED TVs are so pricey right now (some 4K units are priced today at $9,000 or double their LCD counterparts.) The exciting development, however, is Samsung’s use of OLEDs on the S6 Edge as a precursor of things to come in the mobile space.
From entire walls lined with brilliant images, to tiny screens folded into our clothing, OLED technology is helping to make incredible strides in how we use, design, and even think about displays in the near future and beyond. So fasten your seatbelt and get ready for an OLED revolution arriving at your doorstep in the not too distant future.