LED (Light-Emitting Diode) screens are nothing new, but HKSTP partner company SuiRich Flex has come up with the market’s most unique creations after 20 years of research and application, proving that when even something very common is done extremely well, it is a success.
SuiRich Flex’s founder and managing director Ronald Yuen majored in mechanical engineering when studying in England. After graduation, he returned to Hong Kong to work in sales jobs for engineering firms where he was assigned to LED-related business. Ronald realised then that LED screens, still at an early stage of development, had enormous market potential. In 2000, he decided to go out on his own and build a viable startup.
A diverse range of distinctive products
As the business developed, SuiRich Flex gradually progressed from serving as a general sales agent for LED screens to getting involved in research, development and manufacturing. It developed various application models to meet the needs of clients for different settings, be it large outdoor LED screens serving as billboards outside malls and convention and exhibition centres or lighting installations for clubhouses or art galleries.
Ronald recalled that early LED lights could only emit white light. Much like black-and-white TVs, the LED screens of those days were unable to produce the high impact and potential for creativity of screens we can see today. Since LEDs with the full RGB colour range have become mainstream, the external walls of malls and buildings can display rich and vibrant visuals. Now SuiRich Flex offers LED screens of multiple sizes, thickness and even ones that produce 3D effects.
Flexi LED screens adopted globally
The company’s flagship product is the flexi LED screen. Ronald was playing with the concept as soon as he began the company. The technology followed a bit later, and the prototype was developed in 2008. His breakthrough idea was to put tiny LED bulbs and tailored printed circuit boards (PCB) on flexible plastic or silicon substrates. This made the screen pliant so it could be shaped into a sphere, spiral or curved items. Due to the product’s flexibility, it was aptly named Magic Flex by SuiRich Flex.
Ronald won patents for the company’s flexi LED screens in China and the US in 2009 and 2016 respectively. He says the patents cover three unique aspects: bendable PCBs, silicon substrates and magnetic rims that are used to piece together screens of different shapes and sizes.
Over the years, the products have been used at the O2 Arena in London, casinos in Las Vegas, subway stations in Toronto, shopping malls in Zhongshan, as well as Mercedes Benz motor vehicles, either for art or commercial purposes. Some of its ongoing projects are large-scale multi-million US dollar productions. As these clients want to deliver powerful visual effects for their audiences, cost is not the main issue.
Pixel pitch proves how far the technology has come
Magic Flex has evolved over the years. During the interview, Ronald showed five generations of products. They differ in the size of the LED lights, the complexity of the circuit boards and the pixel pitch. He says that the improvement in pixel pitch reflects how far the technology has come. The shorter the pixel pitch, the more lights can be fitted onto a circuit board, increasing its capacity to deliver more refined images.
The first generation of Magic Flex products was called P10, denoting a pixel pitch of 10mm. It progressed from there to P6.67 in the second generation, P4 in the third generation, P3 in the fourth generation and P2.5 in the fifth generation. Ronald says that P2.5 products have 160,000 pixels per square metre of screen, which means they can deliver an unprecedented level of detail. Of course, as the technology advances, the cost goes up, and not every customer needs images of that quality. So SuiRich Flex offers multiple product lines, from P4 to P2.5, catering to the visual standards and budget sizes of customers. The first two generations, however, are obsolete.
In addition to commercial success, SuiRich Flex has also received many startup awards and recognition. Last year, it received the Class One Award (Cultural and Creative Industry category) in the 6th China Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition (Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan). In the Asia Exhibition of Inventions in late 2018, it won three major awards.
Ronald hasn’t stopped thinking about how he can improve and expand his product range. One idea is a transparent screen, TransFlex, which uses see-through and light-weight plastic sheets for substrates. It can be stuck to glass walls without blocking sunlight. It will turn sheet glass walls of buildings into giant billboards without affecting the living or working environment of tenants or workers in the building.
Entering Science Park fast-tracked development
Now with a team of 12 people, SuiRich Flex moved into Science Park in late 2018 and immediately joined the SPRINTER programme co-organised by HKSTP, HSBC and the Hong Kong Business Angel Network. Through the programme, the company has systematically acquired knowledge in corporate management and operations. More importantly, it has won HK$10 million of financing.
Ronald thinks that SuiRich Flex has benefited in many ways from joining the Science Park community. As well as getting a leg up in operations and investment, the company has enhanced its brand image. Along with other partners at Science Park, among them Chain Technology, it has joined HKSTP delegations to international exhibitions. These activities have boosted the company’s international exposure, communication skills and confidence, as well perceptions of its solutions.
Ronald says that one of his future plans is to expand the application of LED screens to build, for example, a domed sky theatre and provide a better virtual entertainment experience. The company will also evaluate markets in mainland China, the US and Europe, based on the global economic climate. He believes that with personalised service, cost-effectiveness and innovation, SuiRich Flex will stay true to its mission and grow ever stronger, riding on HKSTP’s support.