Canatu, Manufacturer of Transparent Conductive Films and Touch Sensors, Comments on the Move Towards Flexible Smartphones

According to TechRadar article on December 30th 2013, near-future of smartphone design seems to be going towards the adaption of fully flexible phones. In the article Canatu comments on flexible OLED displays technology and its Carbon Nanobud® (CNB™) films usage in capacitive touch sensors.

The recently released Samsung Galaxy Round and LG G Flex have set tantalising glimpses of a whole new approach to mobile phone design. One that abandons the clumsy, fragile bricks that we carry around with us today in favour of something bendier and tougher. The near-future of smartphone design seems flexible.

In future, these bendy displays will be attached to similarly flexible bodies, creating whole devices that move and flex. Eventually, you'll be able to fold your smartphone up like a piece of paper. Replacing fragile glass components with plastic ones gives the benefit of creating significantly tougher smartphones. But in practice, replacing these traditional materials has posed a considerable problem for component manufacturers.

"It has been challenging to make robust enough flexible OLED displays," a spokesperson for Finnish tech company Canatu Oy told TechRadar. "Materials for OLED emitting layers are very sensitive to air and moisture, and it has been difficult to develop air and humidity-tight enclosure packages that withstand extreme repeated bending and folding."

It's very tricky to find a flexible polymer that can get close to the performance of good old glass when it comes to keeping out the elements. Of course, various material solutions have now been formulated, which is why the flexible phone revolution looks set to begin.

But the key thing holding back the launch of fully flexible or foldable smartphones has nothing to do with the displays. It's everything else that makes up a smartphone that's the problem. Put simply, while OLED screens can be made to bend, batteries, processors, and other vital internal components cannot. Or at least, they couldn't until relatively recently.

Other vital smartphone components appear to be ready to make the jump to a flexible format. The aforementioned Finnish company Canatu Oy has just launched its fifth generation of Carbon NanoBud (CNB) films, which enable the replacement of indium tin oxide (a solid conductive material) in capacitive touch sensors. "Our production line for CNB films and touch sensors is in operation and marks an important milestone going to volume manufacturing," explains a Canatu Oy spokesperson, adding that there are plans for a mass volume plant in the second half of 2014.

In other words, here is another vital component in flexible touchscreen displays that is just about ready to roll out to commercial products.

Industry insiders believe that it's less than two years away. "Canatu estimates (the) first fully foldable products will be in the market in 2015," claims a spokesperson for the company.

Samsung anticipates that its first bendable smartphone will be ready to go in 2014, while its first fully foldable smartphone will be on the market either towards the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016.

The TechRadar article can be found here.

About Canatu

Canatu is a leading developer and manufacturer of transparent conductive films and touch sensors for an entirely new class of touch applications. Canatu’s transparent conductive films and touch sensors are based on a new type of carbon nanomaterial (Carbon NanoBud®), and a new, single-step manufacturing process combining aerosol synthesis of NanoBud® material and Roll-to-Roll deposition by Direct Dry Printing®. Canatu offers consumer electronics companies increasing design freedom with its innovative technologies.

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