HP and the Flexible Display Center (FDC) at Arizona State University (ASU) announced a prototype of an affordable, flexible electronic display today. These paper-like computer displays are made almost entirely of plastic, and can enable displays to consume less power for today’s portable devices.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of flexible displays, which could be used for such things as electronic paper and signage. Still, the news of the production feat marks an important milestone in creating a mass market for high-resolution flexible displays. Also, the displays use up to 90% less materials by volume than conventional display processes, giving them a leg-up from an environmental standpoint.
The FDC and HP created the unbreakable displays using self-aligned imprint lithography (SAIL) technology. Regardless of process-induced distortion, perfect alignment is maintained because of the way in which patterning information is imprinted on the substrate. SAIL technology makes it possible to produce thin film transistor arrays on a flexible plastic material in a low-cost, roll-to-roll manufacturing process, thereby utilizing cost-effective continuous production.
FDC partners, including DuPont Teijin Films and E Ink, also contributed to the first practical demonstration of the flexible displays. To create the prototype, the FDC produced stacks of semiconductor materials and metals on flexible Teonex Polyethylene Naphthalate (PEN) substrates from DuPont Teijin Films. HP then patterned the substrates using the SAIL process and integrated E Ink’s Vizplex imaging film to produce an actively addressed flexible display on plastic. E Ink’s Vizplex electrophoretic imaging film doesn’t require applied voltage to enable images to persist with, which reduces power consumption for viewing text.
“Flexible electronic displays are playing an increasingly important role in the global high-tech industry, serving as the crucial enabling technology for a new generation of portable devices, including e-readers and similar products designed to combine mobility with compelling user interfaces,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, principal analyst, Small and Medium Displays, iSuppli. “We expect the flexible display market to grow from $80 million in 2007 to $2.8 billion by 2013.”
Even though this display is not available today, the recent prototype shows promise for the future. When this technology does take off, notebooks, smartphones, and other electronic devices could stand to benefit from the mass production of these types of displays, since the display is often one of the most expensive components.