Flexible OLED/ QLED Screen Markets to Reach $72B by 2016


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8The touted arrival this year of wearable gadgets such as computer displays strapped to wrists and in wrap-around glasses is just a step towards a bigger revolution in screens — those that can be bent, folded and rolled up.

Once freed from today’s relatively heavy, breakable and fixed glass displays, tomorrow’s devices may look very different, with screens that can be rolled out, attached to uneven surfaces, or even stretched. But there’s still some way to go.

“It becomes a product designer’s paradise — once the technology is sorted out,” says Jonathan Melnick, who analyzes display technology for Lux Research.

There is no shortage of prototypes. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics this year showed off a display screen that extends from the side of a device — but obstacles remain: overcoming technical issues, figuring out how to mass produce parts cheaply, and coming up with devices compelling enough for gadget buyers.

Screen technology — with the global small display market expected to more than double to around $72 billion by 2016, according to DisplaySearch — is still dominated by liquid crystal displays (LCDs), which require a backlight and sit between two sheets of glass, making the screen a major contributor to the weight of a device, from laptops to tablets.

“Most of the weight in a tablet is the glass structure in the display and the support structure around it to prevent it from cracking,” said Kevin Morishige, a former engineer at Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Palm.

LCD’s dominance is already under threat from lighter Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) that don’t need backlighting, are brighter, offer a wider viewing angle and better color contrast — and can be printed onto a few layers.

From Gorilla to Willow

Glass, however, is getting lighter and more flexible.

Corning, whose toughened Gorilla glass became the screen of choice for many smartphones, will provide phones with curved glass edges as soon as this year. It is also now promoting Willow Glass, which can be as thin as a sheet of paper and is flexible enough to be wrapped around a device or structure. Initially, Willow will be used as a coating for products like solar panels, but it is eventually expected to create curved products.

Corning's Willow Glass

Corning’s Willow Glass

A key selling point for Willow is more efficient production which involves so-called roll-to-roll manufacturing, like a printing press, rather than today’s more costly batch manufacturing. But the commercialization of Willow as a flexible product is some way off, James Clappin, who heads Corning’s glass technology group, told Reuters.

And glass has its limits.

“You can bend it, but you can’t keep flexing it,” said Adrian Burden, a UK consultant who has worked on several start-ups related to display technology, and holds patents in the field. This means that while glass is likely to continue to play a leading role in devices with curved displays, screens that users can bend, fold and roll will likely be plastic.

But plastic is not as robust as glass. “As soon as you introduce plastic substrates you have all kinds of issues with sensitivity to the environment,” says Burden.

Plugging the leaks 

So while OLED and plastic would seem to be companion technologies they create an extra problem when laid together: they need so-called barrier films to prevent the various layers from leaking oxygen and moisture.

“There are barrier films in all sorts of products, for example food packaging, but the challenge is that OLED is one of the most sensitive materials we follow, and so creates huge challenges,” says Lux Research’s Melnick.

Singapore-based Tera-Barrier Films, for example, has developed a way to plug leaks in the layers using nanoparticles. Director Senthil Ramadas says that after years of delays the company last month started production in Japan and aims for mass production by end-2014.

“You have several challenges in the value chain,” he said. “All these things need to be established, and only now is it coming out.”

And there’s another problem: all the materials in a bendable display need to be bendable, too — including the transparent conductors that drive current through the display. Several technologies are vying to replace the brittle and expensive Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) used in most fixed displays, including nanowires, carbon nanotubes, graphene and conductive mesh.

Some of these technologies are close to production. Another Singapore-based firm, Cima Nanotech, for example, rolls a coating of silver-based conductive ink on a sheet which then self-aligns into a web of strands a few microns across that forms the conductive layer.

It’s unlikely such shifts in the underlying technologies will yield products immediately. For one thing, “prototypes can be made,” says Melnick, “but that’s a long way from mass production as many of the processes and material in these devices face big yield and scaling issues.”

On a roll

This is gradually changing, some in the industry say, as production shifts from making parts in batches of sheets to the more efficient roll-to-roll process. “Batch is more expensive and slower than roll-to-roll, which needs new equipment and design — and takes time,” said Ramadas at Tera-Barrier.

All this requires money, and manufacturers have to be convinced to invest in the new equipment.

Even after the success of Gorilla Glass, popularized by the iPhone, Corning is having to work hard to prepare customers for Willow displays. Clappin said customers want thinner devices and easier to produce glass, but Willow requires a completely different manufacturing set-up.

“When we talk about commercializing Willow a big part of our development activity is enabling the ecosystem to handle what is essentially a brand new material,” Clappin added. “Nobody’s accustomed to working with glass that bends and moves. It’s a new material. The ecosystem needs to be trained to handle it.”

He sees demand, particularly from video gamers, for Willow-based curved screens, but remains less convinced about rollable or foldable screens. “Conformable is in the near future. As far as flexible, bendable, fold-upable goes, I see that further out and I’m not even sure that’s a viable product,” he said.

For companies with deep pockets, like Samsung, this can mean building prototypes such as those displayed at international technology shows. But that doesn’t guarantee success in selling products. Sony, for example, promoted flexible OLED displays back in 2007. “Six years later they’ve not come up with anything,” says Zhang Jie, senior scientist at Singapore’s Institute of Metals Research and Engineering. “If Samsung’s going to really drive this the application really needs to drive people and make them want it.”

This slows down the process. In late 2011, Samsung told analysts it planned to introduce flexible displays into handsets “some time in 2012, hopefully the earlier part than later,”but a year later the company said the technology was still “under development.” In an investment note last month Jefferies said that while Samsung may introduce “unbreakable” screens this year, it didn’t expect to see flexible displays in Samsung devices until 2014-15.

Ultimately, teasing out the technical problems may be only half the battle.

“This is the eternal question of the speciality materials industry,” says Lutz Grubel, Japan-based head of marketing for German glass maker Schott’s Xensation Cover 3-D glass. “You have something, a material, and you’re looking for an application. That’s the game.”

For More Information On OLED/ QLED Markets go to this Wintergreen Research Report:

https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/quantum-dot-and-quantum-dot-display-qled-market-shares-strategies-and-forecasts-worldwide-nanotechnology-2013-to-2019/

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A*STAR’S IMRE AND CIMA NANOTECH TO DEVELOP MATERIALS FOR NEXT GENERATION TRANSPARENT CONDUCTORS


(JCN) – A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and Cima NanoTech, a US multinational company, have signed an agreement to jointly work on new sustainable nanomaterials, processes and devices for transparent conductors used to make cheaper and more efficient electronics and organic solar cells.

IMRE and Cima NanoTech are collaborating to develop new transparent conductive materials and components, based on Cima’s SANTE(TM) Technology and IMRE’s know-how in printed electronics. These innovations will enable efficient conductive interfaces with high transparency, which can be developed into low cost and high performance products for displays, organic solar cells, and flexible electronics.

Conventional Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) and Transparent Conductive Oxides (TCO) used in today’s solar cells, OLEDs, flat panel TVs, and touchscreen displays have limitations in conductivity, flexibility, and cost. These new materials and processes that IMRE and Cima are developing will potentially enable faster response touch screens for large flexible displays and reduce production cost.

“Cima is particularly interested in IMRE’s extensive electronics materials systems and device fabrication capabilities, said Mr Jon Brodd, Cima NanoTech’s Chief Executive Officer (Singapore). IMRE and CIMA are working together to develop enabling nanotechnology materials, components, and processing methods to support new market applications in transparent conductors and printed electronics with SANTE, Cima NanoTech’s self aligning nanoparticle network.

“We are collaborating with Cima to develop new transparent conductor applications that will lead to cheaper, flexible, more eco-friendly and sustainable products,” said Dr Zhang Jie, the key scientist leading IMRE’s printed electronics initiative. The research team will develop applications using novel, sustainable transparent conductor materials as an alternative to conventional ITO-based materials.

“Innovations in materials R&D are crucial in evolving today’s devices into new products with tomorrow’s technology. IMRE’s research portfolio covers the entire printed electronics value chain that includes materials, processes, optimisation and reliability testing for integrated printed electronics prototypes. I am glad that we can present a diverse suite of capabilities in partnering Cima in the area of transparent conductors and printed electronics,” said Prof Andy Hor, IMRE’s Executive Director.

About the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE)

The Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) is a research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). The Institute has capabilities in materials analysis & characterisation, design & growth, patterning & fabrication, and synthesis & integration. We house a range of state-of-the-art equipment for materials research including development, processing and characterisation. IMRE conducts a wide range of research, which includes novel materials for organic solar cells, photovoltaics, printed electronics, catalysis, bio-mimetics, microfluidics, quantum dots, heterostructures, sustainable materials, atom technology, etc. We collaborate actively with other research institutes, universities, public bodies, and a wide spectrum of industrial companies, both globally and locally. For more information about IMRE, please visit www.imre.a-star.edu.sg

About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore’s lead public sector agency that fosters world-class scientific research and talent to drive economic growth and transform Singapore into a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation driven economy. In line with its mission-oriented mandate, A*STAR spearheads research and development in fields that are essential to growing Singapore’s manufacturing sector and catalysing new growth industries. A*STAR supports these economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. A*STAR oversees 20 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research entities, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis as well as their vicinity. These two R&D hubs house a bustling and diverse community of local and international research scientists and engineers from A*STAR’s research entities as well as a growing number of corporate laboratories. Please visit www.a-star.edu.sg

About Cima NanoTech Inc

Cima NanoTech is an advanced nanomaterials company that has developed SANTE(TM), our self aligning silver nanoparticle network. SANTE Technology provides ultra low conductivity at high transparency as well as flexibility in a low cost, clean manufacturing process. SANTE Technology was a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer Award Winner, and top 10 Greentech/Cleantech recipient. SANTE is used for applications like Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) shielding, Touch Displays, Photovoltaic, OLED Lighting, Flexible Displays, and other electronic applications. Cima NanoTech’s headquarters is in the United States with business development centers in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Israel and Singapore. Cima NanoTech’s Asia Headquarters & Product Development lab is located at the new CleanTech One building in Singapore. Production is also done at manufacturing facilities in Israel, Japan, and Korea. Please visit www.cimananotech.com for more information.

Source: A*STAR

Contact: Mr Eugene Low Manager, Corporate Communications for Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) DID: +65 6874 8491 Mobile: +65 9230 9235 Email: loweom@scei.a-star.edu.sg Ms Kelly Ingham Vice President of Marketing Cima NanoTech Pte Ltd DID: +65 6570 2018 Mobile: +65 97291434 Email:kingham@Cimananotech.com For technical enquiries, please contact: Dr Zhang Jie Senior Scientist III and Manager for SERC Printed Electronics Programme Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) DID: +65 6874 4339 E-mail: zhangj@imre.a-star.edu.sg