Samsung is mass producing flexible OLED displays for products still on track for release in 2012, the company has confirmed, though the exact extent to which they actually bend will depend on more than just the panels themselves. Samsung Mobile Display’s assistant president confirmed the sales plans this week, Asia Economy Park News reports, insisting that “flexible displays will be commercialized within a year.” The initial implementations are expected to include smartphones and tablets.
Foldable displays use plastic rather than glass as a substrate for the displays. The plastic allows a flexible display to be bent, folded, or rolled opening up the possibility of smartphones that are curved like bracelets or can be rolled up into a very thin profile. The patent in question showed images of just such a device with a screen that rolls up into a cylindrical holder.
The displays can into electronic newspapers, while keeping the same features that are used to in rigid screens. One of the benefits of these flexible screens compared to rigid screens will be very apparent to any smartphone user who has dropped their device and crushed the screen.
The flexible displays will be able to absorb the shock and bend rather than cracking and breaking, making a more robust screen that is lighter at the same time. According to the patent, the flexible display will be based on a substrate of flexible plastic, metal foil, thin glass, or other thin and flexible material. The patent also notes some the target products for the screens.
The display of patent FIG. 3A may be bent, folded or crooked with respect to a predetermined bending central line seen above as patent point #51. The sensor unit 20 may detect a degree of bending of the flexible display unit as the predetermined bending angle. If the unit is abused or not in use for a given amount of time, the power supply will shut off automatically.
Samsung's patent FIG. 3B simply illustrates the condition where the flexible display apparatus is substantially folded. In that particular bended state, it sure looks like it's mimicking a folded book, don't you think? Considering that Samsung earlier listed the possibility of using an electrophoretic display in an electronic book as one of their possible end user products, it's not much of a stretch at all to envision this being used as such in the future. A few other interesting concept designs have been leaked over time, such as this one.