In terms of Intellectual Property, this is without a doubt the year of the flexible display for Samsung. By the end of this coming week we'll have covered more than a dozen patent applications dedicated to flexible displays alone without even counting any of their dual or tri-fold smartphone display filings. For that reason we've now opened a new sidebar category archive dedicated to Samsung's Flexible Displays in order to better track them going forward. In today's patent report we cover a recent patent filing that illustrates some rather futuristic flex screen designs for a smartphone, tablet and beyond. While a recent Korean report confirms that the first round of smartphones with curved displays by both LG and Samsung aren't appealing to consumers in any way, shape or form, future designs may compel some consumers to take a leap into the future.
Samsung Invents Futuristic Flexible Display Devices
Jumping right into Samsung's patent filing, we see in patent FIG. 12A below an illustrated example of a flexible display apparatus provided in the form of a main body (#1210) with a display unit (#110) and grip unit (#211). The main body plays a role of a case which also contains a sensor unit. In addition, the main body/case includes a rotation roller which rolls the display unit in and out of the case.
Samsung notes that when the user grips and pulls the device's grip unit at the end of the display, the rolling is released as the rotation roller rotates in an opposite direction of the rolling, and the display unit leaves the case. A stopper may be provided in the rotation roller. Accordingly, if the user pulls the grip unit by or above a certain distance, the rotation of the rotation roller is stopped by the stopper, and the display unit may be fixated.
Accordingly, the user may use the display unit exposed outside to perform various functions. Meanwhile, when the user presses a button to release the stopper, the rotation roller rotates in a reverse direction as the stopper is released, and as a consequence, the display unit may be rolled inside the main body once again.
While Samsung's patent FIG. 12A illustrates the main body in the form of cylindrical structure, the shape could actually be a quadrangle or another polygon.
Furthermore, the display unit may obviously be embodied to have a shape of covering the external portion of the main body or another shape, and not just of being exposed outside by a pulling from the main body – which would be rather cool and convenient.
The Power Source
Samsung describes how this futuristic unit will be powered by stating that the device's power unit 500 may be embodied to have various shapes such as a battery connecting unit where a disposable battery is equipped, a second battery which the user may charge by a plurality of times and use, and a solar cell which generates power using solar heat. In a case where the power unit is embodied as the second battery, the user may connect the main body and external power with a wire and charge the power unit.
Samsung's patent FIG. 12B is a view illustrating a flexible display apparatus where a power unit may be attached and detached. According to FIG. 12B, the power unit may be provided in one corner of the flexible display apparatus, and be detached.
The power unit may be embodied to be made of a flexible material, and be bent together with the display unit. More specifically, the power unit may include a negative electrode collector, negative electrode, electrolyte unit, negative electrode, positive and negative electrode collector, and covered part which covers them.
For example, the current collector may be embodied to be made of alloy type material such as TiNi which has good elasticity, pure gold material such as copper and aluminum etc., pure metal coated with carbon, conductive material such as carbon and carbon fiber etc., and conductive high molecule such as polypyrole etc.
The negative electrode may be produced with negative electrode material such as lithium, natrium, zinc, magnesium, cadmium, hydrogen storage alloy, and lead etc., and negative electrode material such as high molecular electrode material such as organicsulfur fundicide.
The electrolylte unit may be produced with sulfur and metallic compound, lithium metallic oxide such as LiCoO2m and positive electrode material such as SOCl2, MnO2, Ag2O, Cl2, NiCl2, and NiOOH. The electrolyte unit may be embodied as a gel type using PEO, PVdF, PMMA, and PVAC.
The covered part may use high molecular resin. For example, PVC, HDPE, or epoxy resin etc. may be used. Beside these, any material which may be curved or folded freely while preventing damage of a thread type battery may also be used as the covered part.
Each of the positive electrode and negative electrode in the power unit may include a connector to be electrically connected to the outside.
According to FIG. 12B, the connector is formed to protrude from the power unit and a furrow corresponding to the location, size and shape of the connector is formed in the display unit. Accordingly, by a combination of the connector and furrow, the power unit may be combined with the display unit. The connector of the power unit may be connected to the power connecting pad (not illustrated) inside the flexible display apparatus 100 and provide power.
In FIG. 12B, the power unit is illustrated to be detachable from one corner of the flexible display apparatus but this is just an example, and thus the location and shape of the power unit may differ according to the product characteristics. For example, in case of a product where the flexible display apparatus 100 has a certain thickness, the power unit may be provided in a back surface of the flexible display apparatus.
The device in patent figures 12A and 12B could be For example, it may be embodied as a portable apparatus such as a mobile phone, tablet PC, PDA and/or an MP3 player. In another twist of the invention noted below we see that the invention could also apply to a next generation digital photo frame.
A Next Generation Digital Photo Frame
Samsung states that an example of a next generation display apparatus will have a function of changing shape like paper. In a flexible display apparatus, a user may change shapes by applying force, and thus such a display apparatus may be used for various purposes.
Samsung's patent FIG. 11A represents display states when the flexible display apparatus is not bent and when the flexible display apparatus is bent in a cylinder shape.
This digital photo frame can start off as a straight/flat display and then transform into a cylindrical shape by the user applying force. The impression is that this kind of photo-frame display will be designed to have preformatted designs that the user could choose to have an end result as noted above.
Samsung does describe earlier in the patent that users will take photos using a panoramic application methodology by panning a scene. The design is then ready to be used in this 3D like digital photo-frame which is really a flexible display being bent into shape.
If anything, it's a novel idea.
Samsung filed their patent application in the US back in May of this year and approximately a year earlier in Korea. The US Patent Office published this patent earlier this month. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time. Below is an overview of one of the possible systems.
Two Flexible Displays in a Single Device
In a secondary patent filing, we see Samsung's patent FIG. 4 noted below which is a perspective view of another flexible display device which offers a dual display configuration. The two touch screens #12 and #14 may be mutually connected by a flexible connector #18 and freely folded or bent.
Samsung Introduces a Flexible, Foldable Tablet
In Samsung's patent FIGS. 5A, 5B, and 5C noted below we see perspective views a radical design for a flexible, foldable tablet; a design that could fold down into the size of a large wallet for your pant or suit pocket.
The trifold device would allow for 2 or 3 distinct home screens so as to suit the needs of the user.
Further on, Samsung's patent filing stated something rather offbeat regarding the patent figures noted above as follows: "The home screen can be designated basically by a manufacturer and edited by the user and guides the portable device to easily move to various executable applications, widgets, and functions."
Their form of verbiage would strongly suggest that this unit will be for their upcoming Tizen OS and a version that they'll license out to other OEMs. That was definitely a surprising twist. If the design was just for Samsung, they wouldn't have referred to themselves as the manufacturer being able to customize tablet's home page.
Maybe it's just me, but the trifold design seems a little too impractical. Over time with constant folding and unfolding, the flex screen is likely to bent out of shape and warp text and so forth. I admit that it sounds cool on paper but I don't think it'll fly. Then again, you may see it differently than I. Whether you agree or disagree, send in your comments below.
In the end, we can tell by the sheer number of flexible display patent filings this year that flexible display devices are a priority with Samsung. The applications cover a wide range of product categories from televisions to future smartwatches, to smartphones, tablets and beyond.
Yet another angle that Samsung is diligently working on in concert is in the area of dual and tri-fold display based products. These designs may be a few years away, but Samsung is determined to be the first to market with this next generation of smartphones. In fact, Samsung has publicly stated that they hope to have the first foldable display product in the market by 2015. Will that aggressive timetable be met? Only time will tell.
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