Samsung's flexible OLED display

Samsung presents officially ‘unbreakable’ OLED screen

Image credit: Samsung Display

Samsung has announced that its “unbreakable” OLED smartphone display has received approval from an official tester for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the US Department of Labor.

OLED displays use organic LEDs to build up an image. These thin, light displays work without a backlight and can product crisper, higher contrast, as well as being more energy efficient than LCD displays. Crucially, these displays can be printed onto any suitable substrate with an inkjet printer, including flexible plastic substrates.

Samsung is dominant in the OLED display industry, providing screens for luxury televisions, laptops and smartphones, including those with curved screens. Notably, Samsung is Apple’s only supplier of OLED displays for the iPhone X.

Although there are already flexible displays on the market, these tend to use a glass-covered window adhered to the display, which can shatter when it suffers a severe impact, such as a drop onto a hard surface. However, Samsung’s flexible OLED panel is composed of an overlay window adhered to an unbreakable substrate, mimicking the properties of glass while retaining flexibility.

“The fortified plastic window is especially suitable for portable electronic devices, not only because of its unbreakable characteristics, but also because of its lightweight, transmissivity and hardness, which are all very similar to glass,” said Hojung Kim, general manager of Samsung Display Company’s communication team.

The testing company, Underwriters Laboratories, subjected the display to a 1.2m drop 26 times and high and low temperature tests, under which the display continued to function normally. It then put it through a drop of 1.8m (higher than the US military standard) and reported no damage. The display – having passed the testing – is now ready for use in consumer products.

While the display is, in theory, breakable – such as if it is subjected to malicious damage with power tools – it has proved itself more than capable of withstanding everyday accidental drops and other impacts.

According to Samsung, the OLED display can be used not just for smartphone screens, but other electronic products, including display consoles for cars, mobile military devices, portable game consoles and tablets.

It is possible that Samsung will integrate its tough, flexible new OLED display into its upcoming Galaxy Note 9, which is due to be unveiled next month.

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