TDK promises flexible OLEDs by next year

TDK will be the first company to mass-market a flexible OLED if it delivers as it promises

TDK showed flexible and see-through organic displays at Japan's Ceatec on Tuesday. It said it will begin mass production of the flexible displays within a year, a move that would make it the first company to do so.

"We're using a film display, or film substrate, not glass and not metal," said Osamu Onitsuka, senior manager of TDK's display division. "So it's very light and we can curve it and also not break it."

He said that the displays could be used in mobile devices and portable music players, but wouldn't reveal what companies TDK is working with. The flexible film is 0.3 millimeters thick and can be installed on curved surfaces with a radius of less than 25 mm.

Onitsuka talked about TDK's flexible displays in a video report available on YouTube.

Flexible displays in devices wouldn't necessarily have to bend, but if they're flexible they'd be more resistant to cracks and breaks.

Sony has shown rollable and flexible displays for years but hasn't announced any production plans.

Also at Ceatec, TDK showed transparent organic displays that it's already mass producing.

"Our type is only a one-side emission so the other people cannot see the display," said Onitsuka.

TDK achieves this by setting the light output to just the direction of the text. That means that only the primary user of the device would be able to see the display and not someone on the opposite side of the glass. The displays can be made up to three or four inches in size, limited by the size of the plates from which the displays are cut, the motherglass, which measures 30 to 40 centimeters across.

TDK started work on monochrome see-through displays at the end of 2009, and began work on color transparent displays in mid-2010. It plans film see-through displays starting in 2012.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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