Technology

Bending Boundaries: Are Flexible Displays the Future of Consumer Electronics

With few significant innovations left in consumer electronics, flexible displays have become one of the leading advancements. However, various limitations restrict its mass-market applications. If companies want to turn it into the future of modern technology, they must strengthen their efforts.

The Current State of Flexible Displays

While people have been vocal about their craving for innovation, many cannot articulate what they want. Plus, few people are willing to return to the days of flip phones. Instead, they want something new and transformative. With few boundaries left to break in consumer electronics, many industry leaders believe flexible displays could be the next big thing.

Already, flexible display technology has a significant market presence. While experts valued it at $35 billion in 2023, they expect it will reach an impressive $250 billion by 2030. Considering companies could integrate it into everything from wearables to smartphones, their valuation seems more than fair.

Notably, interest has been piqued in recent years as the technology has grown more prominent. As of 2021, roughly 50% of American adults are somewhat or very inclined to purchase a phone with a flexible display. As more companies invest, this figure will likely only increase. 

Limitations of Flexible Displays in Consumer Electronics

Although flexible displays are becoming highly sought-after, technical limitations keep the technology from reaching its full potential. For one, it has a high investment cost because it requires specialized materials and manufacturing equipment. Unlike traditional consumer electronics with components housed in glass and aluminum, it needs a specific substrate and protective coatings. 

Additionally, the lack of standardization — in manufacturing methods, material choice and design — makes it difficult for companies to identify a feasible style. Although many proofs of concept exist and flexible displays have been brought to market before, consumers largely still consider them a fringe technology because of their limited mass-market applications.

Moreover, the general lack of consistency makes both enterprises and consumers hesitant to commit. After all, device durability and longevity are incredibly important to end users. This is especially true when they pay top dollar for a cutting-edge device. When it comes to flexible smartphones, consumers are uncertain of how their purchase will hold up over its lifetime.  Naturally, they feel wary of investing inwhat seems like experimental technology. 

Consumer Electronics Can Address Limitations

The consumer electronics sector must identify cost-effective manufacturing methods and improve device durability. Above all else, consistency is crucial to building customer trust and establishing flexible displays as a new technology standard.

For starters, die-cutting could be a solution to the mass-market limitations brought on by a lack of standardization. After all, flexible dies are cost-effective and have faster turnaround times compared to solid dies. Since the equipment requires minimal downtime and works well with soft substrates, it could become the standard for manufacturing. 

If the top companies in the flexible display niche — like Samsung and LG — work toward standardization, the consumer adoption rate will likely skyrocket. Generally, further research and development is crucial for widespread adoption. 

If the top companies in the flexible display niche — like Samsung and LG — work toward standardization, the consumer adoption rate will likely skyrocket. Generally, further research and development is crucial for widespread adoption. 

There are many unknowns since flexible touchscreen technology is still in its infancy. Device longevity and feasible production methods are still largely unexplored. Further, recent data indicates the most common flexible substrate — polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic — needs a thermal pre-treatment to prevent shrinkage and stretching. 

If most companies adopt methods to minimize manufacturing deformations and improve device durability, they could substantially increase production volume — and product yields — drastically. As a result, it would be easier to bring to the market on a large scale. 

The Promising Advancements of Flexible Displays 

Although flexible display technology has limitations, they are no different from any other technological hurdle. With enough research and development, industry experts are sure to find ways to bring it to the global market effectively.

Already, many people have identified breakthrough manufacturing methods. For example, researchers used a three-dimensional printer to create a flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display in 2022. This cost-effective approach could broaden mass-market applications. In fact, the people behind this discovery even claimed it could shift production away from highly skilled technicians and toward unskilled workers.

Crucially, flexible devices are about more than the future of flip phones. Industry experts have identified their potential markets. This includes advanced wearables and highly durable displays. Since consumers are somewhat wary of switching from their current devices and adopting this new technology, companies must spell out their benefits.

If companies highlight the benefits for consumers, they could capitalize on this innovative technology. Additionally, they could outline how it has a lower energy consumption rate than its traditional counterpart. Alternatively, they could showcase how plastic substrate is shatterproof.

Flexible Displays May Be the Future 

As it stands, flexible displays could be the future of consumer electronics. While a lack of standardization and consistency currently hold them back from their true potential, further research and development could quickly close the gaps. With enough time and resources, companies could eliminate mass market limitations and showcase the technology to a global audience.

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