Chinese firms gear up for display tech battle

Updated 2017-05-05 09:30:39 Global Times
Royole's 3D virtual mobile theater and bendable FlexPhone displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the US, in January (Photo/Courtesy of Royole Corporation)

Royole's 3D virtual mobile theater and bendable FlexPhone displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the US, in January (Photo/Courtesy of Royole Corporation)

Start-up CEO sees new possibilities for PCs and VR devices

The world's smartphone landscape is expanding at a rapid pace, and so is the display technology used in such gizmos.

The emerging flexible active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) on high-end phones enables screens to bend and curve, while featuring a more efficient display than the liquid crystal display (LCD) mostly found in TVs.

Still, thriving in a market dominated by South Korean electronics company Samsung is bound to be challenging, which is becoming more apparent with the emergence of Chinese players.

It is reported recently that Chinese rising start-up Royole Corporation plans to start a mass production of the quasi-6th generation flexible AMOLED panel by the end of this year in a 1.1-million-square-feet flexible display production campus at the Longgang district of Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province.

A 6th generation production line is expected to make over 200 cuts of a 5.5-inch product from a single substrate, which is about four times the production efficiency of a conventional 4.5th generation line.

The production line in Longgang will mainly focus on small and medium-sized flexible screens for consumer electronics such as smartphones, smart watches, smart home appliance, and automobile application, Royole founder Liu Zihong told the Global Times Tuesday.

The Shenzhen-based company has invested more than 10 billion yuan (.45 billion) in building up the plant, with the annual output expected to reach up to 20 billion yuan.

Founded in 2012 by Liu, a Stanford University graduate, Royole has been working hard to break new ground in display technologies and new methods of human-machine interface.

In July 2014, the company made headlines around the world by demonstrating the world's thinnest full-color flexible display that can be rolled and bent. At about 0.01 millimeters, or less than one-fifth the diameter of a human hair, the display is as thin as onion skin.

Potential demand

"As more and more consumer electronics manufacturers use flexible display technology to design electronic devices, the flexible AMOLED display panels are in great demand and have become an industry trend," Liu said.

According to a report issued by London-based market consultancy IHS Markit last December, smartphone makers used 76 percent of the total flexible display supply in 2016.

While Chinese phone makers Vivo and Xiaomi both launched their first smartphones with flexible AMOLED displays last year, many others are mulling over plans to curve their phones.

U.S. smartphone icon Apple Inc will reportedly launch the next generation of its iPhone in the third quarter of this year, featuring curved AMOLED display.

"If Apple does so, the demand for flexible AMOLED displays will be dramatically driven up. The whole display panel industry will switch to embrace flexible AMOLED technology," Wang Yanhui, head of Shanghai-based Mobile China Alliance, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Shipments of flexible displays are expected to surge by 135 percent from 2016 to reach 139 million units in 2017, accounting for 20 percent of the total OLED display unit shipments over the year, the IHS report showed.

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