Flexible displays refer to next-generation displays that are expected to be applied to various IT products since they are light, less brittle, and easy to carry, and enables various shapes. Thus, commercialization of flexible displays is expected to drastically advance the boundaries of the display industry, serving as a new growth engine for the industry. It is OLED displays that are considered the most noteworthy in the flexible display industry. Considering the fast pace of technological development for flexible OLEDs, mobile products adopting flexible OLEDs will be brought to market around early 2013.
The currently available displays for smart phones are hard and likely to break up because they have glass-based screens. On the other hand, flexible OLEDs, which use plastic (polyamide resin) instead of glass screens, are drawing a lot of attention as next-generation mobile products, since they allow a greater variety of smartphone designs without vulnerability to breakage of the screens.
As substrates for flexible OLEDs, plastic (polymer films), thin glass, and metal foils have been considered. Thin glass has advantages such as excellent optical transmittance, moiture resistance, and stability at high process temperatures, and similarity to existing processes, but it is liable to break and has low flexibility. Metal foil has the disadvantages that it has a rough surface and needs insulating coating for display applications despite its good water resistance, heat resistance, and impact resistance.
On contrary, plastic substrates are considred as the most attractive materials with their advantages such as high flexibility, high processability, and so on. However, they are vunerable to heat and there is difficulty in preventing gas and mositure completely. Since the AMOLED manufacturing process is conducted at high temperature of more than 450?? it is necessary to develop plastic mateirals that can withstand high temperature, blocking gas and moisture. As the technology development has progressed a lot, commercialization of flxbile OLED products is on track. Especially, Samsung Mobile Display (SMD) established a joint venture with Ube Kosan for mass-production of flexible AMOLED panels on August, 2011. The companies are planning in-house production of polyimide (PI), which is a key material for flexible substrates.
SNE Research has published a report for key patent analysis of plastic substrate mateirals for flexible OLEDs. This report is focused on patents on plastic substrates for flexible OLEDs that have been filed until Octoer 10, 2012 in Korea, the United States, Japan, and Europe. Total 323 patents have been selected as validated patents from 7,851 cases, and 104 key patents have been selected through in-depth analysis.
This report provides in-depth data such as the patent trend of main applicants, patent summaries of the key patents by type, and technology flowcharts of the main applicants, as well as technical descriptions for each plastic type, it is expected to be of great help to examine the technology development trend and patent issues in the plastic substrate industry.