Santa Clara, Calif. – By 2020, foldable displays will account for 51 percent of total display shipments, according to IHS Inc. Key growth drivers include ruggedness, lighter weight, reduced thickness and brittleness, and greater portability of the flexible displays, according to the market research firm.
The IHS report, Flexible Display Technology and Market Report, finds that global shipments of foldable displays will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 58 percent from 2016 to 2020, reaching 180 million units in 2020.
Foldable displays are leading to innovative new applications and revolutionizing the flexible display market,” said Jerry Kang, principal analyst for IHS Technology, in a statement. “In fact, we can expect to see foldable tablets and smartphones as early as next year.”
A few examples already in the market come from LG and Samsung, which have both introduced flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays in their flagship premium smartphones, said IHS. Apple’s Smart Watch also uses a flexible OLED display, driving usage of these displays in the wearable device market.
“Flexible displays are receiving a lot of attention, not only from consumer electronics giants like Samsung and Apple, but also from start-up companies experimenting with new and innovative applications,” Kang said.
One of the biggest signs of significant future growth is the rise of patent applications for flexible display technologies, which will broaden the applications for these displays. IHS reports that 312 patents for flexible displays were filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2014, accounting for 62 percent of U.S. display patents last year.
“Flexible displays are next-generation display panels fabricated on a paper-thin and flexible substrate, so that they can be bent and rolled without damage,” said Ian Lim, senior analyst of intellectual property for IHS Technology, in a statement. “These types of displays, which lend themselves to far wider applications than conventional rigid displays, are projected to create an entirely new display market and replace existing non-flexible display solutions.”
The IHS Flexible Display Patent Report finds Samsung Electronics filed half of all new flexible display patents in the United States, followed by LG Electronics at 17 percent. Lim said the “patent applications focus on preventing image degradation, reducing device distortion and providing a range of user interfaces for bendable and foldable displays. Patents on parts and manufacturing technologies that primarily focus on the use of polyimide flexible substrates and metal nanowire in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays were also popular.”
“Patents for flexible display device technologies outnumber those for flexible display parts and manufacturing technologies in recent patents, indicating that the flexible display market is entering a period of maturing growth,” Lim added. “As manufacturer requirements for flexible displays grow, battles to acquire relevant patents will only become fiercer.”