Going by the sheer number of patent applications made by major players in the mobile space, foldable and/or rollable mobile devices have become a peek into the future for future smartphone technology. Samsung has been leading the charge, despite many delays to its yet unreleased foldable smartphone, in this space. The company upped the ante by taking the foldable concept from smartphones and now into tablet devices or even what could shape into hitherto unexplored portable TV product.
Samsung has won two patents for flexible display-based devices that seem to look and function like the quaint parchment paper-based scrolls you see in sword-and-sandal films. While the phablet-form factor has all but wiped out consumer demand for tablets, Samsung’s latest patent might pave a way for larger display format tablet devices that can still be rolled into a much smaller and sleeker format.
The patent describes a rollable display-based device, where a flexible display panel can be tightly rolled into a relatively tiny cylindrical space. This would enable Samsung to deliver a tablet device bearing a larger screen, while still being compact enough to fit into a jeans pocket.
Scrollable Device Could Make Tablets Truly Portable
Titled “Rollable display device with separate rollers for display and display window”, the granted patent stresses on the improved reliability of the rollable display device with unspecified means to alleviate the stress associated with the repeated bending and rolling of polymer films and organic display elements within such displays. Samsung is also quite open regarding the nature of the rollable display technology and throws in virtually all the terminology associated with such devices. Here’s exactly what the patent document describes the device:
“A flexible display device is being developed in accordance with market demands. The flexible display device includes a curved display device fixed in a state having a specific curvature, a foldable display device which may be bent at more than a specific radius of curvature or may be folded around a folding axis, and a rollable display device which may be rolled up at a specific radius of curvature.”
The mention of a “specific radius of curvature” in the patent document is most notable, because that describes the fixed roller-based design underpinning the scrollable nature of the device. The first implementation deals with a relatively compact chassis housing two rollers – one for the rollable display itself and another one for a larger protective window to ensure the durability of the flexible panel.
Samsung seems especially serious about protecting the rollable display element, because the patent document also describes a Thin-Film Encapsulation (TFE) layer implemented to safeguard the display. The TFE layer is a collection of inorganic thin films designed to shield the flexible OLED panel from everything from moisture, oxidation, dust, and other foreign contaminants and abrasives that could potentially damage the surface.
Second Version with Single Roller Could Be Used As Portable TV
Samsung’s yet another patent grant involves a flexible, rollable display-based device that’s quite similar to the one described above; albeit bearing a much more simplified design. The second patent grant also describes a similarly scrollable display, but the mechanism involves one roller instead of two in the aforementioned implementation. This patent particularly details the scrolling mechanism replete with how the shafts and the gears are placed and work relative to each other.
Titled simple as “Rollable display device”, the patent primarily describes how having a fixed rolling radius prevents much of the wear-and-tear associated with free rolling devices. Setting a fixed radius allows the engineers to design the inner and outer layers of the flexible display to exact tolerances and avoid the sort of tensile stresses associated by randomly variable rolling radii experienced by free rolling displays. The document describes how the roller assembly prevents the premature peeling and cracking of the rollable display by reducing the internal stresses between the component films as described earlier.
Both of these patents won by Samsung are conducive for tablets and actually stands a chance of bringing this waning product segment back to life by making tablets truly portable without sacrificing screen size. Having said that, the format could also be used for portable displays and even TVs, which would make these devices even more portable by doing away with the electronics required for tablets.