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LG showcases a 12-inch screen that can extend to 14 inches

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LG shut down its mobile business before it could make a foldable smartphone, but the company’s display unit continues to develop technology that could make future mobile devices more flexible. LG Display has revealed an extendable display that can extend from 12 to 14 inches. It’s not quite ready to be integrated into your next gadget, but it’s a step forward for display technology.

LG says the new stretchable screen meets several important thresholds for viability. It has full RGB color instead of mono, and the resolution works out to about 100 pixels per inch. That would be on the low side for a smartphone, but most computer screens are in this neighborhood. Notably, it can extend by 20 percent, making it possible to expand the computing surface on the go.

We’ve seen foldable OLED demos for years at trade shows, but it took time for the technology to become mature enough to reach consumer products. The LG stretchable display is currently just a display screen. LG outfitted it to display some test images as it folded and stretched, but future free-form displays (LG’s term) could bypass current folds.

In fact, most demonstrations of “stretchable” devices have relied on screens that can be folded or rolled inside the device’s frame. LG likens the structure of its new screen with a rubber band, adding that it has high flexibility (obviously), durability and reliability. It uses a film-type substrate made of the same silicone used in contact lenses. Displays images using a micro-LED array with a pixel pitch (the center-to-center distance between adjacent pixels) less than 40 µm.

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She sees this technology as ripe for commercialization. Current foldable smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Z series can expand beyond pocket size with flexible OLEDs, but they only fold in one direction. This means you have a mechanical hinge that may eventually fail. The new LG Display can stretch, roll and fold in any direction. LG claims that its flexible chassis can withstand frequent changes in shape without damage.

LG sees a future in which this technology will be integrated into more than computers. The lightweight and flexible nature of the material can make it ideal for sticking to clothing or leather. Although this is still a prototype, it was produced as part of a large-scale research project funded by the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE). A consumer product should be able to operate for years under daily use, and foldable OLEDs don’t arrive until years after similar prototypes. But perhaps the next evolution of that idea will be along the lines of a free show.

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