Paper-Thin Displays – The Future is Here

| October 6, 2010

The Wall Street Journal recently published their 2010 Technology Innovation Awards. There were several notable innovations, ranging from eyeglasses that can focus like a human eye to new genetic testing to help prospective parents screen for possible complications.  Read the WSJ article here.

But, above all these, one technology innovation caught my eye: This year’s gold winning universal flexible display – the FlexUDP, developed by a Taiwanese company, Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI).  Yes, you read that right, a display that can bend.

For years, people have played around with flexible displays. But, their efforts have proven challenging, largely due to the manufacturing process.  Since you can’t work on a flexible material without it bending or “curling,” the manufacturing process requires the flexible substrate to be temporarily bonded to a rigid piece of glass. Once completed, the flexible material needs to then be removed from the glass.  Conventional techniques prove costly as many of the displays tear and/or are damaged during this removal process.

This is where ITRI joins the party; they have incorporated a “debonding” layer into their manufacturing process that sits between the flexible and rigid materials, allowing the the two to be separated without incident.  Interestingly, according to a company spokeswoman, the idea came from watching how Taiwanese pancakes were easily peeled from a scorching hot pan without disturbing the pancake.  Once again, this goes to show that brilliance and innovation oftentimes come from the simplest places.

With their demonstration of a successful prototype, ITRI stands on the precipice of catalyzing an entirely new generation of e-Readers, currently planned to be released by the end of this year (2010).

“With a stable, viable and cost-effective flexible display technology . . . the door is opened to a wide range of truly new applications in consumer electronics and device interfaces.”

So, what does this mean for the Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, and others? Will we see new products from them? Will a new company emerge and shake up this already hyper competitive market?  This technology could bridge the gap between those who prefer the “feel” of a book in their hand and those of us who prefer reading e-books.

We’ll just have to wait and see. But, one thing is for certain: Paper-thin flexible screens are a “game-changer” and are on the horizon.  This means a new wave of innovative technologies – Woo-hoo!

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Category: Technology Strategy

About Marc LeShay: I am a strategic consultant helping people find clarity in chaos View author profile.

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