Although foldable displays have not yet been commercialized, since late 2013, a variety of displays fabricated on plastic substrates have come to market. These first generation flexible displays offer the benefits of being very thin, light, and rugged. They also enable device design freedom with curved features.
Figure 1: Examples of Commercialized Flexible AMOLEDs
As production of cell phones and smart watches that use flexible displays ramps up in 2015, the market is forecast to increase almost 9X over 2014. This nearly exponential advance is being enabled by rapid flexible manufacturing capacity growth as both LG Display and Samsung increase capacity on current lines and Samsung begins production at its new flexible dedicated A3 line.
In the short term, there is some market visibility based on capacity and production plans. However, looking further into the future, long-range forecasting of the flexible display market is highly complicated for multiple reasons. Some of the manufacturing technology required for the rapid growth of flexible displays is either unproven in mass production or has not been developed yet. Demand for flexible displays is highly price elastic. Even if the technology is feasible, it will need to be cost competitive with conventional displays.
In 2016 and beyond, there is little visibility. To provide borders on the range of possible market outcomes, we forecast the flexible display market in three scenarios according to technology developments and generation definitions analyzed in the Flexible Displays Technology and Market Forecast Report. Under the likely demand scenario, flexible display revenue is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 119% from 2013 and exceed $20 billion in 2021.
Figure 2: Flexible Display Market Revenue Forecast
Over the forecast range, and particularly beyond 2020, we assume there is more downside risk in the baseline forecast than potential in the upside forecast. The reason for this is the substantial amount of new manufacturing technology that not only needs to be developed, but must also meet cost targets and be ramped to high volume production in order for larger size applications to adopt flexible displays.
Regardless of the remaining challenges and unknowns about how fast and how far the market will grow in the long run, our outlook remains optimistic. From a simple applications perspective, any current rigid FPD could be replaced by thin, light, unbreakable, and even low-cost flexible alternatives. Also, flexibility may create new applications, some of which we may not have even imagined yet. These are the factors that are generating so much intense interest in flexible displays now. In 2015, flexible display commercialization is expected to accelerate. In the long-run, flexibility offers the pro