Shipments of foldable phones are projected to increase by 52% this year. While that might seem small, it marks a critical turning point.
Flexible electronics enable new form factors and applications, from being rolled up like newspapers to being folded in on themselves and even curving into curves. Here are some exciting examples of flexible devices.
1. Flexible Electronics
Flexible circuits (flex circuits) have rapidly advanced with technology over the years. From metal conductors to polymeric ones, flex circuits have long been in use across industries and many products still utilize them today.
Wearable technology fueled by smart devices in our pockets has proven incredibly successful for the flex circuit market. Consumers love being able to track heartbeat, steps taken during a day, sleep quality and more through these devices; furthermore, medical wearables are driving this market as well.
Numerous companies are pioneering new ways to produce flexible circuits at lower costs than their traditional counterparts. By producing them on cheaper substrates like plastic film, production costs have been drastically reduced while their flexible nature enables them to fit into smaller spaces easily – making them perfect for use across many applications such as the automotive sector where flexible sensors embedded into seats, steering wheels or other parts of a vehicle allow it to monitor changes in its environment quickly and respond accordingly.
2. Foldable and Rollable Displays
Foldable phones and tablets may make headlines these days, but there’s another kind of screen which could prove even more transformative: “rollable production.” This technology can bend around corners like never before.
These screens use plastic that produces its own light to illuminate itself instead of glass or LCDs, which allows them to be thinner while maintaining flexibility when folding without damage to their displays.
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold and Huawei’s Mate XS both utilize this type of folding screen, but it’s not the only choice available to device makers. LG recently unveiled an innovative folding display which can flex inward or outward to replace premium devices’ need for both inner and outer displays.
The company also unveiled a prototype screen that can be folded up like a poster or paperback book. While not yet ready for mass market usage, this prototype shows what portable monitors may look like in the future–coiled up or rolled up like toothpaste tubes to take up less space.
3. Biomedical Applications
As technology develops, sensors, memory, processing power and power supply units that make up traditional circuit boards must become more flexible to adapt with technological change. Integrating these components directly onto substrate products provides endless opportunities.
Flexible electronics that can be printed directly onto skin patches, smart clothing, or wearable devices is one of the most fascinating technologies that is opening up new possibilities for healthcare and wellness monitoring and improvement. A contact lens equipped with flexible circuitry could show information directly onto its user’s eye; for instance to monitor glucose levels.
One promising avenue of use for flexible sensors in sports equipment to prevent concussions and injuries is their integration into mouthguards, helmets and other pieces of gear for monitoring biomarkers such as heart rate and oxygen levels to detect pressure points on players’ heads, for instance. Researchers have created such devices which detect pressures on the head so as to alert players of potential danger; similarly, researchers have created flexible electronic mouthguards capable of sensing pressure on the head which alert players about any potential threats to player wellbeing; similarly this type of technology still has limited applications in healthcare and wellness monitoring but its development promises much promise in this regard in future developments!
4. Smart Clothing
Smart clothing (known as e-textiles ) features sensors, actuators, electronics and mobile connectivity embedded into fabrics for improved functionality. Some garments even use energy-generating nanogenerators to power their sensors.
Smart clothes include activewear like workout shirts and running shorts that monitor biometric data, medical garments like blood pressure cuffs, heart rate monitors and thermometers as well as garments designed specifically for specific work environments such as fire protection, military or construction sites.
Garments with smart sensors must withstand daily wear and washing without failing. Some smart clothing uses pods which can be detached for charging or replacing worn parts; other smart pieces integrate sensors directly into fabric such as Nadi X yoga pants which vibrate to encourage better form, or the Owlet Dream Sock which tracks sleep patterns.
Some major technology and fashion brands are exploring smart clothing. Levi’s Commuter Jean Jacket in 2015 featured circuitry from Google Project Jacquard that enabled users to control music via taps or swipes on a smartphone screen.
5. Smart Homes
As technology evolves, smart devices will take on increasingly creative forms. Flex circuits give manufacturers the flexibility to develop products that suit both their vision and consumer needs – for instance security cameras that detect burglars, pets and other dangers; smart trash cans that notify users when it’s time to empty them; refrigerators that generate grocery lists or recipes using ingredients currently present at home; and coffee makers that brew coffee at exactly the right temperature and time are among many examples of innovative designs used today.
Other applications of flexible sensor arrays for biometric scanning that can capture fingerprints and even vein patterns; wearable sensors that track our health and sleep habits; flexible solar cells able to adhere to novel surfaces for energy harvesting; printed electronics embedded into vehicles or unmanned aircraft are among many more examples of smart technologies that will revolutionize how we live, work and play – the future is limitless with such innovations being at our fingertips! The future of smart technology extends far beyond phones in our pockets!