Flexible touchscreens will go mainstream in the next couple of years, not just among gadget makers but also in “the world around you,” driving a nearly 250 times expansion in shipments from 2013 through 2020. According to IHS, global shipments of flexible displays will soar to 792 million units in 2020, up from 3.2 million in 2013, with market revenue rising from $100,000 to $41.3 billion.
IHS classifies flexible displays into four generations of technology.
- The first generation is the durable display panels that are now entering the market. While these panels do employ a flexible substrate to attain superior thinness and unbreakable ruggedness, they are flat and cannot be bent or rolled.
- Second-generation flexible displays are bendable and conformable, and can be molded to curved surfaces.
- The third generation consists of truly flexible and rollable displays that can be manipulated by end users. These displays will also enable a new generation of space-saving devices that blur the lines between product categories like smartphones and tablets.
- The fourth generation consists of disposable displays that cost so little that they can serve as a replacement for paper.
It is expected that the “flexible display revolution” starts with smaller-sized products, such as smartphones which shipments will climb to 351 million units by 2020. However, once large-size displays are available, this technology will be used in bigger screen-size platforms like laptops, monitors and televisions.
Finally, IHS predicts OLEDs will be the leading flexible display technology during every year for the foreseeable future, accounting for 64% percent of shipments in 2020.