TOKYO -- Sumitomo Chemical intends to triple its manufacturing capacity for flexible touchscreens used in next-generation smartphone displays to over 100 million annually by the start of 2018.
The Japanese company already dominates touchscreens for organic light-emitting diode displays in smartphones, supplying 60-70% of global demand.
The touch-detection circuitry for the bendable screens is fabricated on plastic films instead of glass substrates. Being lighter than glass, these plastic touchscreens are easier to handle in the production process. Being bendable, they give smartphone makers greater design flexibility.
Sumitomo Chemical plans to invest roughly 15 billion yen ($132 million) to boost output by repurposing a production line at its liquid crystal display materials factory in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.
Tripling capacity for bendable versions will let Sumitomo Chemical supply a combined total of 400 million smartphone touchscreens a year.
Samsung Electronics pioneered the use of OLED displays for smartphones, but now Apple also plans to use this display technology for its phones.
An estimated 350 million OLED displays were shipped for smartphones in 2016, and that figure is seen topping 700 million units to account for more than 30% of all smartphone displays in 2020, market research firm IHS Technology says.
Sumitomo Chemical will supply its touchscreens to the large-lot users of South Korea but also expects to increase business with the Chinese companies that have begun to enter the market.