The Future of Flexible Displays – Rising Demand from Healthcare and Automotive

Flexible displays are lightweight, energy-efficient, and shatter-proof, which, in turn is driving their adoption for smartphone manufacturing. Rising sales of consumer electronics, such as wearable devices, bendable TVs, and foldable laptops are expected to proliferate the demand for flexible displays. Furthermore, technological advancements in the manufacturing process of flexible Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLED) has boosted the demand over the past few years.

Superior features offered by flexible displays in terms of portability, non-fragility, and weight, makes them an attractive alternative for consumer electronics manufacturers. Moreover, high growth of smart wearable market is impelling the industry demand.

Rising demand from industries, such as healthcare and automotive has opened new growth avenues for the flexible display market. Automotive manufacturers are focusing on integrating flexible displays in automotive interiors. For instance, in May 2019, Samsung Corporation and Audi AG formed a strategic partnership to push Audi’s concept car, Audi Prologue A9 Prototype. The proposed car is expected to house a flexible, high-resolution Samsung OLED display near the gear stick helping driver control vehicle settings.

Flexible display manufacturers are investing huge amounts in R&D in a bid to develop energy efficient products. In 2018, a total of 20,590 individual patents/applications were filed by the companies such as Sony Corp., Philips, Samsung Corporation and others. In October 2018, Royole Corporation, a flexible display and smart devices manufacturer, launched FlexPai, a foldable device which can be bent, rolled, and operated as a smartphone as well as tablet.

Thus, technological advancements in the field of displays are anticipated to provide sound growth opportunities to manufacturers and offer customers high-quality touch screen displays. However, huge capital investment requisite to manufacturing flexible substrate is expected to hamper the market growth.

Asia Pacific accounts for majority of the market value share and is expected to expand at CAGR of over 25%. The regional growth is accredited to the rising demand for compact and light-weight electronic devices. Additionally, proliferation of smartphone and increasing adoption of advanced technologies, such as 3D displays and augmented reality is expected to have positive impact on the regional market growth. Presence of large number of consumer electronics manufacturers and huge customer base is also supporting the regional demand for flexible displays. Countries such as Japan, South Korea, China, and India are the leaders in the development of flexible displays. China is the largest manufacturer of flexible OLED screens worldwide. For instance, Chengdu factory based in China manufactures more than 70 million sheets of flexible phone screens every year.

North America accounted for more than 20% of the overall revenue share in 2018. The regional market is witnessing healthy growth due to the rising demand for energy-efficient devices. Europe is expected to witness substantial growth in the forthcoming years due to the significant demand for flexible displays from the automotive industry.

Key market players include BOE Technology Group Co., Ltd.; Corning Incorporated; Innolux Corp.; AU Optronics Corp.; E Ink Holdings, Inc.; Japan Display Inc.; LG Display Co., Ltd.; Royole; and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. In view of optimistic outlook of the industry, major manufacturers are emphasizing on increasing their production capacity to meet the demand.

Business expansion through new product development, strategic partnerships, and mergers and acquisitions are the go-to strategies adopted by the leading manufacturers. For instance, in October 2018, Royole Corporation launched FlexPai, a foldable device integrating flexible display. The device can be bent, rolled and operated as both smartphone and tablet. Companies are investing huge amounts for developing commercially viable designs of flexible displays for different consumer electronics applications. They are also registering patents to gain competitive advantage.

Manufacturers are investing huge amounts for the expansion of their production capacities in order to meet the demand. For instance, in 2016, LG Display announced the investment of KRW 970 million in a 6th Generation flexible OLED display production line to strengthen its market presence. In addition, rising adoption of OLED-based devices in mobile phones, VR headsets, digital cameras, laptops, tablets, and televisions among others is contributing to the growth of the market for flexible display. On the other hand, factors such as complex manufacturing processes and high capital investment may pose challenge to new market entrants.

Rising demand for flexible displays from healthcare and automotive among other industries is anticipated to create growth opportunities for the key manufacturers operating in the market. Automotive manufacturers focus on integrating flexible displays in automotive interiors. For example, in May 2019, Audi AG and Samsung Corporation entered into a strategic partnership to promote Audi Prologue A9 Prototype, a concept car by the former. The proposed car is expected to house a flexible, high-resolution Samsung OLED display near its gear stick to help better control the vehicle settings.

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