California-based Kateeva claims to have invented a flexible coating which can seal OLED displays. Their coating, which costs half the price of other alternatives, would allow for production of bendable screens at affordable prices.
Bendable displays have been showing up at trade shows for a few years now, but the technology is still prohibitively expensive. This is one of the main reasons why we’re not all carrying phones that we can roll up in our pockets. However, a company out of Menlo Park, California called Kateeva has developed a coating for OLED screens, which they claim will make bendable displays affordable to produce.
There are two major problems that must be solved before bendable screens can hit the market. The first is that the screens need to be protected. Bendable screens use OLED technology, as opposed to standard LEDs. As a result, they cannot be exposed to oxygen or moisture. Coming in contact with either can ruin the display, so it’s important that it is completely airtight. This is where the problems arise; creating an airtight seal that simultaneously remains flexible and won’t break is something engineers have had trouble achieving cheaply.
Kateeva claims that they have developed a printing-based method which can properly seal a display and keep it flexible, for about half the cost of what others have offered. This would make bendable displays marketable, and Kateeva says they’re ready to begin shipping to manufacturers, should they desire the technology.
Kateeva’s coating is applied with a printer.
The other problem with bendable displays is that there are electronics behind those displays, and some of the materials used in contemporary phones (indium tin oxide), tends to crack when flexed. Luckily, a Finnish company called Canatu recently announced that they’re developing a carbon nanotube-based thin film which can be applied to the conductor to keep it from cracking.
At this point, we can’t confirm the claims of either Kateeva or Canatu, but we can hope that their technologies work as advertised. If so, we may quite soon have phones that neatly slip into the back of our wallet. If not, we’ll once more see our next bendable phones as a demo product at CES, never to be heard from again.