In the near future, flexible displays in pliable plastic casings could be found most anywhere — on refrigerators, wallpaper, furniture, or even sewn into shirt cuffs — thanks to recent developments in technology.
Jon Swartz writes in USA TODAY that the promise of unbreakable, non-glass displays has researchers and companies hoping to cash in on a huge emerging market. Sales for flexible displays are expected to reach $8.2 billion in 2018, up from $85 million in 2008, according to Jennifer Colegrove, an analyst at NPD DisplaySearch.
“It’s the wild world of flexible-display possibilities,” says Jeff Demain, lead strategic researcher at Intel Labs‘ Circuits and Systems. “Within five years, every surface becomes a display.”
Because of their pliable nature, the displays could go on newspapers, car dashboards, sides of buildings, coffee mugs, and backpacks. Consumers might like to bend or fold devices from out of their phone, rather than carry a laptop, says Bob O’Donnell, an analyst at market researcher IDC.
Hewlett-Packard is developing prototypes so that soldiers can have a display sewn into their uniforms’ cuffs. They could function as a global positioning device, shortwave radio or field manual, helping the soldier avoid carrying heavy equipment.
Keeping the promise of this technology in check, however, is the difficulty in properly bending silicon-containing electronic components. Embedding the components into plastic, stainless steel, or glass makes the manufacturing process expensive, says Mark Fihn, publisher of Veritas et Visus, which publishes newsletters on the topic.
Nevertheless, analysts believe that the promise of the technology will just take some patience for it to be realized. “Not every surface will be a display, but it could be,” says Intel’s Demain. “There are no barriers.”
Source: “Flexible Displays Bend What’s Possible for Computers,” USA TODAY, 4/6/12
Image by RDECOM, used under its Creative Commons license.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.