On The Folding Phone Screen’s Supply Chain

There’s no doubt that these days in consumer electronics the folding phones are the most eye-catching products.

Samsung announced that its folding phone Galaxy Fold will be launched into market in April this year. Soon after, a strong competitor, Huawei, also released a folding phone called Mate X.

With the high price and immature software, folding phone is now more of a vivid exhibition to show the technical reserve of the tech giants, rather than a product facing mass market.

1. The key component for screens of folding phones

Besides price and software, there’s still another factor preventing folding phone entering mainstream.

If you’ve care enough to watch the launch events of the folding phones, you can find crease on the bent area of the screen. In fact, this is brought by the material that covers and protects the OLED screen, the polyimide.

On Polyimide

Polyimide is a type of plastic polymer. It’s a reasonable choice now for folding phones cause it can bend into a degree that meets the need and can bend repeatedly. The best polyimide film will bear hundreds of thousands of bends.

Nonetheless, plastic polymer has many disadvantages in other aspects.

  • As a polymer, polyimide film has a low resilience under pressure, which will result in crease as mentioned above.
  • And the low hardness of polyimide film brings scratches easily through daily use.

Thus the plastic polymer seems to be only a compromise or transitional scheme. A top manager from Motorola even says that “once you open the package of plastic polymer, it’s scrapped.”

2. What about the glass?

Then, you may ask, where’s the glass? Indeed, we’re all very familiar with glass since it has always been with smartphone so far.

The famous mobile device glass provider, Corning, is trying to develop an ultra-thin and flexible glass. This type of glass is expected to be only 0.1 mm thick and can be bent to a radius of 5 mm. However, the challenge is how to achieve the flexibility while maintaining the tenacity.

A simple intuition is a softer material is easier to bend, thus to create a glass bendable and resilient is a challenge of physical law.

To reach this goal, Corning is combining its famous Gorilla glass to a type of glass that can be rolled up like paper. But in fact, it’s this manufacturing process that brings out another crucial problem making the glass unsuitable for mobile phones.

In the process, the glass will be dipped into molten salt solution, then the potassium ion in the solution will get into the surface of glass and replace the sodium ion. In this way, a layer of compressed stress is formed so that the glass is strengthened.

Here’s the problem: the display components under glass is OLED, a type of semiconductor, which will be corroded by the potassium or any other element in the family of salt.

“Still we have to wait for years” said a general manager from Corning, “we can already provide flexible glass or strengthened one, but not both.”

3. New opportunity

The folding phone is definitely a new trend, and the product, the market and the supply chain are all in their infancy. That is to say, there’s a huge opportunity in this field. Exploring this technology could be both a challenge and a chance.

To make better choices and cleverer decisions when going on this new path, find professional supplier sourcing and assessing services here in Insight Solutions Global. If your company wants to seize the chance, our team will be a reliable partner.

Come to our experts to have a detailed assessment for the product you want to provide and to find the appropriate supply chain for your product.

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