Tech

LG’s new foldable display tech reduces creases but is as hard as tempered glass

Something to look forward to: LG subsidiary LG Chem believes it has found a way to make the dreaded crease on folding phones disappear, or at least a lot less visible than it is on current devices. This tech and other innovations can help pave the way for mainstream adoption of foldable form factors, especially since it promises to mitigate an issue that looks a lot like a defect for the non-technical consumer.

One of the most pressing problems that engineers have when designing foldable phones is how to make the display strong enough to maintain its structural integrity and the ability to produce a clear image. So far, the pinnacle of materials science has allowed them to create devices with displays that bend inward and outward without much of a problem for hundreds of thousands of times, but the side effect is a crease in the middle that never goes away.

LG Chem says it may have found a solution it calls the Real Folding Window. It is essentially a new type of cover material for foldable displays that can last just as long as existing solutions while being much thinner and thus much less prone to forming a crease in the area where the screen folds. Furthermore, it should feel no different to the touch compared to the cover glass found on non-foldable phones.

The wonder material is a specially developed coating laid on top of a thin polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film, conferring enhanced mechanical and heat resistance to the plastic. Despite being only a few micrometers thick (thinner than the human hair), the resulting display cover is as hard as tempered glass and cheaper to manufacture than existing solutions based on polyimide (not to be confused with polyamide) film. Over time, the company hopes to remove the need for PET plastic film altogether.

LG Chem claims the Real Folding Window is guaranteed to fold at least 200,000 times without significant degradation. A crease can still form, but it should be much less visible than what you get with current foldable smartphones, where a single day is enough for the display to give birth to a “fold line” in both in-folding and out-folding designs.

The bad news is LG Chem doesn’t expect to achieve mass-production capabilities for the Real Folding Window until sometime in 2022, with volume sales planned to begin in 2023. The good news is that we can expect to see the technology come to foldable laptops and tablets.

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