LG unveils flexible glass for folding smartphones
Image credit: LG Chem
LG has unveiled a new flexible material designed for folding smartphones that is as hard as glass but with folding areas that are as flexible as plastic.
Samsung has been pushing foldable smartphones as an alternative to their mainstream flagship devices, but their displays are covered with a hardened plastic that is much easier to scratch than traditional glass-fronted screens.
While LG left the smartphone business in April after years of dwindling sales, its subsidiary LG Chem is still working on new materials including one dubbed Real Folding Glass.
Samsung’s foldable devices, such as the Z Fold 3 and the Galaxy Z Fold, typically feature a visible crease in the screen at the tightest fold point.
LG said its new glass has “improved fold lines” in the folding area compared to existing products as well as crack prevention. It is also durable and can be folded more than 200,000 times before breaking – equivalent to folding the phone more than 100 times a day for five years.
An LG Chem spokesperson said: “Unlike existing polyimide films and tempered glass-type materials, the cover window that applied LG Chem’s new coating technologies will maximise flexibility, while also providing optimised solutions for foldable phones such as making improvements to chronic issues like fold impressions on the connecting part of the screen.”
The new material has a thickness of just a few dozen micrometers (㎛) on both sides of PET film, which is a type of thin plastic, to enhance heat-resistance and mechanical properties of plastic materials.
It is thinner compared to existing tempered glass and has the same hardness, but no cracking on the screen.
LG Chem also said it was competitively priced compared to alternatives and can be used for both inward and outward folding devices.
It plans to start mass production by 2022 with a full-scale rollout into commercial products from 2023.
LG Chem vice president Chang Do Ki said: “Through the Real Folding Window that we newly developed, we were able to take a step closer to resolving the pain points of customers, and we have already received proposals for joint projects from multiple clients.
“We will strengthen our partnerships with leading companies of the smartphone industry and expand our market starting with mobiles and going on to new foldable applications such as laptops and tablets.”
According to the global market survey company Omdia, the foldable phone market is expected to grow from 3.5 million units in 2020 to 50 million by 2026.
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