LG has produced an 18 inch screen that can roll down into a tube barely two inches in diameter. It says a 60 inch version should follow in 2017.
The screen uses OLED technology, which works in a similar way to traditional LEDs but instead of a chip, uses a thin film that emits light when a current passes through it. Most LED screens to date have used a standard frame, with the main selling point being the lack of need for backlighting, allowing thinner screens and lower power use.
Because the film is so thin however, it’s possible to make screens flexible, something that’s already being explored in both pocket devices and technology that needs to wrap around a wrist.
LG’s new offering appears to be the largest screen size that’s rollable. The screen can even still operate while rolled up, though there doesn’t seem any real practical benefit to doing so. That it’s rollable rather than merely flexible is the result of LG using a polyimide film for the back of the panel, rather than the usual plastic sheet.
The 18 inch model has a 1200 x 810 resolution, which is both below full HD and an awkward ratio for television. LG says the eventual 60 inch version will support the 4K resolution that appears on some high-end TVs today.
While the rollable screen is technically impressive, LG may struggle to sell the practical benefits to consumers. It’s touting the possibility of making the screen portable or easy to store when not in use. While it might be neat to take a 60 inch TV with you on vacation, it’s more likely to be useful for businesses. There’s also not much detail coming from LG about how bulky the non-screen components such as input sockets, picture processors and speakers are.
LG has also made a second OLED panel which it describes as transparent, something it achieved by using transparent material for both the front and back screens which form electrodes and surround the central electroluminescent film. “Transparent” is a relative term however: LG boats the screen lets 30 percent of light through, which compares to around 95 percent with glass windows. Still, it may be enough to let the screen appear to fade into the background when not in use. The plan is to include the transparency feature in the 60 inch rollable model.