It was unimaginable in the past to fold a mobile phone the size of an iPad and put it in a pocket. However, with the promotion of supply chain technology and manufacturers, owning a foldable mobile phone has gradually become a reality.

In recent years, mobile phone experience innovation is increasingly dependent on display technology. In 2014, Samsung launched the first curved screen Galaxy note edge, which aroused people’s strong interest in curved screen mobile phones. Until mwc2019, the manufacturers put the black technology products such as folding screen mobile phone, scrollable large screen TV & Smart bracelet, folding flat panel and other black technology products on the exhibition stand in turn, which ignited the air outlet of flexible screen.

As the first destination of black technology facing the consumer market, mobile phone industry is always the first to usher in reform, and the “experiment” of flexible screen is no exception.

But before that, we need to clarify a concept: what is a “flexible screen”? There is always a lot of variety in the concept. In fact, “flexible screen” is a general term, which includes all flexible screens, such as flat flexible screens, curved screens, curl screens, folding screens, full flexible screens, etc.

At present, curved screen has penetrated into the mainstream mobile phone brands, such as Huawei mate40, P30, glory 30, vivox50, Xiaomi 10 and other flagship models, while the iPhone x adopts planar flexible AMOLED screen.

However, the flexible screen is just the preheating of flexible display technology in the rigid fuselage, and the heat wave of the next folding screen is still surging.

Strategy analytics predicts that by 2025, the global volume of foldable smartphones will reach 100 million, becoming the fastest growing segment of the high-end smartphone market in the next decade. At the same time, a patent of Apple’s latest foldable iPhone has been exposed recently, and the business of flexible display technology has been pushed to the forefront of the industry trend again.

From a more macro perspective, Yuan Feng, vice president of BOE, believes that the decline in the gross profit rate of mainstream products means that the products must be transformed and upgraded, and flexibility is the mainstream in the future.

One obvious change is that with the development of smart bracelet, TV, computer and other second tier consumer electronic products towards the direction of lightweight, portable and intelligent, its display screen also experienced a rapid evolution from “straight” to “curved”.

It can be predicted that what the market needs in the future is: expandable screens that can fit various spaces.

Pyramid model of OLED screen

In China, when it comes to flexible displays, it is necessary to mention “SoftWorld technology”. The company focuses on full flexible display and flexible sensors, and is famous for making the world’s first folding screen mobile phone. The company was founded by Liu Zihong and two other Stanford alumni in 2012. The three were rated as “world’s top scientists and China’s best talents” by well-known investor Xu Xiaoping.

Like many cutting-edge technology companies, the news about Ruoyu’s IPO has been reported repeatedly, but it has not been settled because there is no conclusive evidence or action. Ruoyu technology was once again rumored to shelve its listing plan in the United States and focus on China.

According to this, whip Niu Shi verified to Ruoyu CEO Liu Zihong and relevant staff, and the other side said that “everything is subject to the official announcement”.

However, a person in the industry who pays close attention to Ruoyu told Bian Niushi that Ruoyu technology is indeed leading in technology and now has a scale of 2000 people. It is speculated that it is indeed in the early stage of listing.

Due to its forward-looking and unique technology, Ruoyu technology is deeply favored by the capital market. It has obtained hundreds of millions of US dollars in financing since its establishment eight years ago. The investors include IDG, Shenzhen Venture Capital, CITIC Capital, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, Yuexiu industrial fund, and Hong Kong Shangcheng group under Li Jiacheng. The current valuation is as high as $6 billion.

Liu Zihong used a pyramid model to deconstruct the current screen Market: the basic layer is hard screen; the middle layer is a once formed hard curved screen, which is also the mainstream trend; the top is the full flexible screen. The full flexible screen at the tip of the pyramid can be downward compatible. Ruoyu focus’s domain is at the top of the triangle, and the players in this area are Samsung.

It is understood that most curved screens on the market can not withstand hundreds of thousands of times of repeated folding, but only when the screen strength and toughness reach this standard can they be used to make folding screen mobile phones. At present, there are only two enterprises with such technical strength and capacity – Samsung and Ruoyu.

In March of this year, Ruoyu technology released the third generation of cicada wings full flexible display screen, and made a stir in the industry with the amazing index of “bearing more than 200000 times of bending, and the minimum bending radius of 1 mm”. At the same time, with the full flexible display production line of Ruoyu phase II put into mass production, the total production capacity of the company will reach 8.8 million pieces / year.

However, such as the low yield rate of products, lack of production capacity, lack of application scenarios and so on, this innovative and entrepreneurial company is also controversial.

Liu Zihong once compared Ruoyu’s flexible sensing and display to “digging a hole in the ground with a flashlight”. The current situation is like a person exploring in no man’s land. There is no previous experience to learn from. You need to step out of this road by yourself.

In an interview with bullwhip, Liu Xiyuan said: any industrial evolution and iteration need a process, and the different nature of the industry determines the speed of this process. Different from the traditional display and interaction based on rigid screen and button, flexible screen and flexible sensing are a new interaction mode, which will change a series of existing hardware, software and industrial ecology from the bottom, and bring a brand-new human-computer interaction experience. This requires the leaders of flexible display to undertake the responsibility of the education market.

Two legs of commercialization

In terms of commercialization, Ruoyu chooses 2B and 2c to “walk on two legs”: 2C mainly develops its own intelligent hardware. At present, its main products include consumer terminal products such as Softpack folding mobile phones and softcore smart handwritten books, as well as office solutions for flexible electronic nameplates. Among them, roupai folding screen mobile phones are mainly high-end business people, or those who have financial support and are willing to try new things and like cool electronic consumer goods.

It is reported that flexpai’s new generation of folding screen mobile phone flexpai2 will be officially released in September this year. In addition, there are flexible lamp and flexible screen smart speaker and other terminal products.

2B mainly focuses on the production of flexible panels and flexible sensors, facing the enterprise market with more potential and growth space. According to Liu Zihong, currently Rouyu has completed the exploration from 0 to 1, and the mass production in 2018 marks the company’s stride from n to N + and enters the exploration stage of large-scale application scenarios.

There is no doubt that the flexible screen has imperceptibly changed various industries around us. Liu Xiyuan pointed out that the full flexible screen produced by Ruoyu has many significant advantages, such as light, thin, soft, gorgeous and low energy consumption. Each advantage can be extended to many application fields, such as intelligent transportation, entertainment media, smart home, sports fashion, office education, etc Yu has reached cooperation with more than 500 customers, such as LV, Airbus, Li Ning and Toyota.

He introduced, for example, that with its light characteristics, the full flexible screen replaces the traditional screen behind the seat headrest of Airbus aircraft, which can significantly reduce the weight of the aircraft, and save more than one million dollars of fuel per aircraft a year. With its thin characteristics, the full flexible screen can be used to make materials for clothes, shoes, hats and bags. Ruoyu is working with LV to launch the world’s first flexible screen handbag. Its flexible characteristics are also acceptable Let the uneven surface become the display and interactive interface, used in the car center console, speaker, ring facade, etc. currently, Ruoyu has reached a strategic cooperation with Toyota.

Full flexible screen can also be widely used in medical, logistics, manufacturing and other fields, and these innovative products also let the author see more possibilities in the future: when the screen becomes soft, the experience of many products will be completely subverted.

Flexible screen application: from mobile phone to “everything”

In my opinion, the full flexible display technology will not be confined to small screen devices such as mobile phones and tablets, and it will have a broader market blue ocean in the future in the smart home industry.

Home is one of the most frequently used scenarios. According to the market research report released by markets and markets, the global smart home market is expected to grow from $78.3 billion in 2020 to $135.3 billion in 2025. In the next five years, the market size of 100 billion US dollars is attractive.

At the 2020 world artificial intelligence conference a few days ago, kuwei, vice president of Alibaba group and general manager of tmall Genie business department, also said that in five years’ time, 70% of China’s electrical appliances will be upgraded to intelligent products.

Focusing on this, more “high intelligence” human-computer interaction has become the industry’s tireless pursuit. At the MWC exhibition in 2019, flexible smart speakers, flexible smart jewelry boxes and flexible e-books are intensively presented.

To some extent, user usage scenarios determine the product form and the future product design trend. To this end, tmall Genie will invest 10 billion yuan to establish aiot and content ecology in 2020, and jointly establish Ali aiot innovation center with Alibaba cloud IOT. It can be seen that its importance.

It is found that the evolution of smart home and office terminals has gone through the process of single machine intelligent scene linkage. The screen is the key breakthrough point, and it is the key connection of human-computer interaction, which can help people and terminals realize real interconnection.

Naturally, manufacturers can understand the way. This is also an important reason why manufacturers have “flocked” to the home and office scenes in recent years and launched visual intelligent products such as intelligent refrigerators with screens, smart speakers with screens and curved screen TVs around aiot ecology. In short, its purpose is to seize the first entrance of the public daily use scene and seize the position of the future market.

According to Liu Zihong, with the emergence of flexible screens, we can make all planes become interactive interfaces, an interface or a platform for us to interact with the world.

It can be imagined that when the folding flexible screen is configured in the terminal, it will bring new design possibilities for smart home products such as ice washing. Among them, there is a market of 100 billion US dollars, which is the unlimited growth space of flexible screen. Just imagine, as an upstream supplier, Ruoyu will have a great chance to eat one of them in the future if it adopts the strategy of opening up and cooperation.

But now Rouyu needs to be recognized, understood and accepted. In Liu Zihong’s view, innovation has to take risks when there is no history to learn from, which is the price of innovation.

As for when and how to be accepted by the public, he said, “it will take time, and maybe some opportunities.” But he has no definite answer to what “opportunity” is.

Domestic flexible screen industry steadily climbing

According to some data, before 2017, Samsung, LG and other foreign enterprises occupied 90% of the OLED screen market. However, in recent years, in China, vicino, Shenzhen Tianma, csot, BOE and other enterprises have followed up very fast.

They have invested a lot of money to build a number of production lines, some of which have started small-scale application in smart phones. For example, vicino is making more investment in the mass production of OLED technologies such as flexible screens and under screen cameras. It is reported that Huawei’s order amount expected to be generated this year may reach as high as 2.5 billion yuan, while Wuhan Huaxing optoelectronics has invested 1.27 billion yuan in R & D in the past year.

This shows that in the field of flexible screen, the overall strength of China is steadily climbing. Data also show that in 2019, China’s AMOLED mobile phone panels shipped about 55 million, an increase of about 165% over the same period, and the market share increased to 12%.

The year 2020 is the key year for the full scale of flexible screen. At present, AMOLED has become the preferred display technology for smart phones, and its penetration rate continues to rise. According to omdia, the number of AMOLED panels used in smartphones will surge from 471 million in 2019 to 513 million this year. The penetration rate of AMOLED panels is rising sharply, and this growth is completely driven by the demand for flexible AMOLED.

The agency expects flexible AMOLED shipments to grow by 50% in 2020. This means that the business time of the flexible screen is getting closer and closer. In the past, the foldable mobile phone, or the flexible screen speaker, TV and other terminals will soon be available.

But whether these flexible screen products can get out of the small market depends on the performance and yield of flexible screen, which are directly related to the cost. Judging from the current price of tens of thousands of times, there are still many difficulties to break through in the real market volume gathering.

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