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If You Like Curved OLED TVs, Just Wait

El Segundo, Calif. — Even as the market for the first curved organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TV sets begins to emerge, display markers are advancing another compelling application to follow – flexible OLEDs.

That’s right – flexible. Such technology would make for virtually unbreakable portable devices and could eventually lead to foldable or rollable self-emitting displays that can be rolled up and pulled down, like a window blind.

But it will still be three or four years before the big-screen applications are ready for primetime.

Samsung created a stir at January’s International CES when it showed a prototype of such an elastic display, and now comes word from market analyst IHS in its Technical Trends of Flexible OLED study, that the flexible OLED market is expected to grow by more than a factor of four next year, with sales reaching nearly $100 million in 2014.

IHS said global market revenue for flexible OLEDs will rise to a whopping $94.8 million in 2014, up from $21.9 million in 2013.

Flexible OLED screens represent a major segment of the larger flexible display market, IHS said. In a few years, this category is also expected to include flexible liquid-crystal display (LCD) and electronic paper (e-paper) technologies.

Samsung’s initial product is likely to be a first-generation flexible display, employing a non-glass substrate that yields superior thinness and unbreakable ruggedness. However, such displays are flat and cannot be bent or rolled.

“The buzz about flexible displays has been growing louder, ever since Samsung Display demonstrated its Youm line of bendable OLED products at [CES] in January,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, director of mobile and emerging displays and technology at IHS. “Samsung is expected to begin shipping its first flexible OLED display—a 5-inch screen—in the second half of this year.”

It will take some time for flexible OLED technology replace today’s conventional OLED screens, IHS said, Even so, because the plastic substrate, thin-film encapsulation and other related technologies for flexible OLED remain immature, and manufacturing processes are still being developed and tested.

“A wide range of complementary technologies are under development to accelerate the advancement of flexible displays,” Jakhanwal said. “The success of the flexible OLED market will ultimately be determined by the maturity of the materials and manufacturing processes that will enable large-volume production at reasonable costs.”