Just as things are looking good for Huawei following its lifted ban, Samsung’s production of the Galaxy Fold is about to hit a snag. This comes after Japan’s unexpected ban on various exports to Korea, where the main production of the Samsung Galaxy Fold happens.
On Monday this week, Japan’s government tightened regulations on the export of several chemicals which are mostly used in the production of smartphone chips and other components and could make it harder for tech companies in South Korea such as Samsung, LG Display Co and SK Hynix Inc. to produce smartphone components such as semiconductors. This comes after deteriorating bilateral ties between the two countries following an unresolved wartime labour issue.
How this ban affects Galaxy Fold production
Among the chemicals included in the export ban are Fluorine Polyimide and Hydrogen Flouride which are essential for the production of displays and semiconductors. Remember when reviewers of the Galaxy Fold started peeling the display cover which they thought was a screen protector which then led to issues.
PSA: There's a layer that appears to be a screen protector on the Galaxy Fold's display. It's NOT a screen protector. Do NOT remove it.
I got this far peeling it off before the display spazzed and blacked out. Started over with a replacement. pic.twitter.com/ZhEG2Bqulr
— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) April 17, 2019
That material that makes the cover is fluorine polyimide that is manufactured in Japan. When the display cover isn’t removed, no trouble arises and the display continues to function well.
Yes I also thought the Galaxy Fold had a screen protector from the looks of it. No I didn't try to remove it because where would I get a replacement? Now I'm glad I didn't try. Day 2: Display still doing fine. pic.twitter.com/7dPcNSBKLa
— Jaime Rivera (@Jaime_Rivera) April 17, 2019
Japan holds about 70% production in market share and this unexpected ban could hurt production of Galaxy Fold.
all broke !
Samsung’s claim that it can handle 200k folds isn’t looking so hot https://t.co/G0GCkdS3eO
— Mike Murphy (@mcwm) April 17, 2019
Samsung CEO said that they had launched way too soon and called the whole thing embarrassing
YA THINK? https://t.co/tFKcBgqPiF
— Dieter Bohn (@backlon) July 1, 2019
According to Bloomberg, Samsung says that they have been able to fix the display issues by wrapping the protective cover around the entire screen and flow into the outer bezels so it would be impossible to peel off by hand but this recent development could be a huge step back.
Samsung worked with the Japanese company, Sumitomo Chemical to make the clear and bendable polyimide attached to the flexible OLED panel using a really durable adhesive the South Korean tech giant has been working for a couple of years. OCA, the transparent optical adhesive film is flexible glue that allowed the Galaxy Fold Display to bend at the middle while retaining its original size.
Nichido Denko is another Japanese company that supplied Samsung with a polarized film for the foldable display.
This latest development would presumably not hurt production of the initial batches but probably the next batches. Samsung will have to change their strategy as they had planned to produce 1 million units to launch in the coming months.
Samsung could, however, opt to use components made by Kolon, another South Korean company but since they use the same chemicals included in the export ban by Japan, we don’t know for sure if their production has also been affected. Kolon made the display for Royole’s FlexPai, the world’s first foldable phone and is reportedly working on making a display for Motorola’s flexible RAZR.