Shown above is a flexible display. Merck has announced partnership agreements with Korean start-up Solip Tech to develop materials for free-form OLED displays under its new umbrella brand liviFlex™. Photo courtesy of Microsoft

German tech giant to come up with materials for free-form OLED displays

The global display corporations are competing to preempt the futuristic market of free-form products necessary for electronic devices with flexible, foldable, and rollable screens.

And Merck, a traditional powerhouse in the display industry, also tries to remain ahead of the curve by teaming up with two offshore companies, including a South Korean start-up.

Earlier this week, Merck announced its partnership agreements with Finland’s Optitune and Korea’s Solip Tech, which are geared toward churning out free-form products.

Under its new umbrella brand liviFlex™, Merck strives to offer a novel range of display materials that address challenges in manufacturing flexible, foldable, and rollable OLED displays.

Merck, the business bellwether in the electronic materials market, has kept an eye on materials for free-form OLED displays as its future growth engine.

There are many technological challenges. Contrary to the flat, rectangular shape of standard displays, for example, free-form OLED displays require a reduction of up to 60 percent of the display module’s thickness.

But it would be a lucrative area _ revenues of free-form displays are expected to reach $8.9 billion by 2025, about 13 times those of today.

“Free-form devices are one of the fastest-growing trends in data-driven electronics,” says Michael Heckmeier, who leads Merck’s Display Solutions business unit.

“Our partnership with Optitune and Solip Tech allowed us to quickly respond to the market requirement to develop robust and reliable solutions for our display customers. We are excited to bring our first liviFlex products to the market and look forward to further tapping into this exciting field of free-form displays.”

Established in 2012, Solip Tech is a spin-off company from KAIST, Korea’s leading science university.

It has patented technologies in producing flexible hard-coating materials with high hardness, scratch resistance, flexibility, and optical transparency.

“This partnership brings together the high-end materials of Solip Tech with the long-standing reputation of Merck as a market solutions supplier in the display industry,” Solip Tech’s founding CEO Bae Byeong-soo said.

“We will continue to closely cooperate with Merck to develop cutting-edge products.”