Flexible Displays

  • Flexible OLED
  • Flexible LED panels

Flexible OLED

Flexible displays have been appearing in tech news for years, but very few have reached consumers due to their niche uses and currently high cost of production. In the original version of this writeup in 2016, flexible screens were around in some form, but they were mostly concept units displayed at events liked CES. In 2022, flexible screens are still a niche area and come at a price premium, but they are much more accessible for consumers than they were.
OLED is the technology of choice for fleible displays because it can be manufactured on very thin layers on a plastic substrate. OLED’s also emit their own light, so there is no need for an additional backlight, allowing for the thinnest possible display. The screens can be bent or rolled a considerable amount, and only one full edge needs to be connected to the electronics that drive the display. There is also a greater potential for these displays to be manufactured in unusual shapes other than rectangles.
While making flexible LCD’s isn’t impossible, there is a limit to the amount of bend that can be achieved and the cost implications make them a less than ideal choice.
One of the intriguing uses of a flexible display is that it can potentially be utilized as a user interface element. The flex of the screen could be sensed by software and used as a gesture in addition to swipe and tap gestures.
Actual sources for flexible displays that can be used for artistic or commercial purposes still requires some research.
LG is a common manufacturer of flexible displays - they do offer a "roll up TV" that is featured in a video below. They also offer a few different "open frame" options for displays that can be bent around the vertical or horizontal axes with a limited radius, depending on whether you get the portrait or landscape model. These displays come with a pricetag of about $20000-25000 (retail, but you can get better partner pricing via integrators) for a 55" display. When installing a display, you need a curve calibrator—some larger AV integrators may already have this device. These displays also require a detached, rigid control blox, which is connected via a ribbon cable. In theory, the ribbon cable could be extended, but you should assume that the control box is somewhat visible from the sides. LG had a 77" version in 2017 that was also 40% transparent, but it looks like it never fully made it to market.
Samsung has released a number of smaller scale flexible OLED products as well. They currently advertise their FlexOLED as having a very small 1.4R bend radius that allows them to bend the display almost completely flat. They recently announced their new Flex G and S devices that explore different ways of bending a smartphone to transition from a phone to a tablet. A couple years ago they also released the commercially available Galaxy Z Fold3 and Flip3 that offered a sort of flipphone experience. The first test iterations of the Flip and Fold had a number of manufacturing and usage issues that led to a recall.
Royole offers the RoKit for about $959 as an open source development kit for working with their Cicada Wing small scale flexible displays. They also have their own Android Smartphone, the Flexpai.
Royole's Rokit:
LG Signature OLED R rollable TV:
Rollable OLED

Flexible LED

Flexible LED is a very different thing from OLED. There are large scale flexible LED displays for architectural purposes (like wrapping a column) and there are microLED displays that function similarly to OLED.
amFlex LED
microLED stretchable prototype below:
Royole Flexible microLED
See also: