Large Screen OLED TVs Debut at CES

Large Screen OLED TVs Debut at CES

Capital Spending Expected To Ramp to Meet Next Generation Display Technology

Large-size OLED displays from LG and Samsung debuted at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, ushering in what some predict will be major transformation of the LCD display industry. Merrill Lynch estimates OLED displays will grow from US$ 4 billion in 2011 to $20B in 2015 and as high as $35 billion in 2017.  Samsung alone is expected to spend $5 billion a year on OLED capex annually for the next several years.  As new manufacturing solutions and technologies emerge for backplanes, patterning and materials, these estimates could go higher.

OLED technology has made significant inroads into small displays, primarily smart phones with both Apple and Samsung shipping over 20 million OLED display units.  According to Barry Young of the OLED Association, small and medium OLED displays grew from less than $1 billion in 2010 to over $4 billion in 2011.  Young estimates that small/medium OLED displays will exceed 220,000 units in 2012 and over $6.5 billion in revenues. On December 29, Samsung announced they had shipped over a million Galaxy Note phones, featuring with a 5.3" Super AMOLED display with an HD resolution: 1,280 x 800.  Earlier in 2011, Samsung announced they sold 10 million Galaxy S2 phones in five months, the fastest selling phone in its history.  The Galaxy S2 has a 4.3" WVGA Super AMOLED display.

OLEDExpectations for TV display growth are less certain, but are promising due to superior specifications, including faster response, thin-form factor (less than 5mm), lower power consumption (30 percent of TFT LCD), and better color reproduction. LG claims that its new OLED TV, which is only five millimeters thick, will have a contrast ratio (the proportion of the luminance of a display’s brightest white to that of its darkest black) of more than 100,000:1. For comparison, a movie theater screen achieves a contrast ratio of 500:1. Erich Strasser from Oled-Display.net forecasts OLED TVs to grow to approximately 1 million units in 2013 to 10 million in 2015 representing over $4.5 billion (see chart on right). Barry Young at the OLED Association estimates that nearly 15 million OLED TVs will be sold in 2016 and over 30 million in 2017.

The penetration of OLED TVs into the general market could escalate even faster than these predictions now that Samsung and LG Display have announced products at CES. In comparison, the first LED TV was introduced in 2009; today over 40 percent of LCD TVs feature LED backlighting technology. 

 According to Korea’s ETNews, Samsung and LG Display are racing to introduce 55" OLED TVs for 2012 Olympics in July. 

Challenges with Larger Panels

For OLED technology to successfully penetrate TV applications—and for smaller OLED displays to continue on their steep price/performance curve--efficient larger panel production methods will be needed. All active matrix OLEDs (AMOLED) made today use a Low-Temperature Poly Silicon (LTPS) backplane which may not scale to Gen 8 sizes. To overcome that limitation, panel makers are using Oxide-TFTs, super grain silicon (SGS), or a-Si with compensation to improve temporal stability as an alternative.  IGZO (InGaZnOx) based TFTs are also being developed.  The LG 55” OLED TV reportedly uses an Oxide TFT.

Current AMOLED displays are manufactured using vacuum thermal deposition and fine metal mask (FMM) patterning. FMM masks use small slits for the pixel deposition which limits the resolution, inefficiently uses materials, and is difficult to scale to Gen 8 sizes.  Alternatives to FMM patterning include laser annealing and printing of soluble materials.  There are several possible laser annealing methods, the most promising Laser-Induced Thermal Imaging (LITI). LITI can achieve patterning accuracy to about 2.5 micrometers and can achieve pixel densities over 300 ppi. Samsung is reportedly using LITI technology.

OLED

To achieve the productivity of larger panel production, manufacturers are moving fine metal mask solutions (FMM), to FMM-free technologies. Source: LG Display

LG Display believes that OLED patterning technology will eventually migrate to new soluble solutions for Gen 8 production lines due to manufacturing cost and scalability. The key challenges in soluble technology are material developments in polymers and ink formulation.  Close coupling of the equipment process solutions will also be required.  Speaking before the Plastics Electronics Conference in October, James Lee, LG Display research fellow, indicated ink jet printing, nozzle printing and roll printing by gravure and offset methods are potential options for soluble solutions. Epson/TEL, ULVAC, Hitachi High Technologies, and others are developing ink jet solutions.  DuPont has teamed up with Dainippon Screen (DNS) to address nozzle printing for soluble OLED patterning. V-Technology from Japan is focusing on sputtering process and laser masking technologies.

LG Display and other companies are developing white OLED materials instead of RGB color ones to reduce cost.  In work originally developed by Kodak, WOLED CF technology uses white OLED pixels with red, green and blue color filters. LG Display is reportedly using the white OLED process for their large size panels while Samsung will employ the more complicated LITI solution for a true RGB panel. 

Capacity Coming Online

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Samsung OLED sales could exceed $20 billion in five years with large TV panels representing over $10 billion.   In 2014, total Samsung OLED sales of $10 billion could be achieved with full capacity in three new lines (two for 5.5G and one for 8G) and US$5-6 billion annual capex spending.  LG OLED panel production capacity is currently at 24K substrates per month at 4.5G and 8K per month at 8G.

In Taiwan, AUO and CMI are targeting the OLED handset market.  AUO’s OLED technology is RGB method manufactured at its 3.5G LTPS fab with another 15K/month capacity at its Singapore 4.5G fab in 3Q12.  CMI’s technology is employing a white OLED solution and it plans to convert part of its 3.5G LTPS fab to small/medium sized display later in 2012. 

In Japan, Toshiba Corp, Hitachi Ltd and Sony Corp announced in August the formation of the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) to combine the company’s small and medium display businesses under the name Japan Display. According to Nikkei BP, INCJ and Panasonic Corp have agreed to transfer Panasonic LCD Co Ltd.’s Mobara a-Si 6th Gen LCD fab, to Japan Display, which will then be converted to AMOLED production.  However, BoA Merrill Lynch expects none of the companies to be aggressive on OLED capex spending over the next 3-4 years, apparently focused solely on consolidating the already existing low margin profile LCD panel production capacity into Japan Display.

China’s largest LCD producer, BOE announced its AMOLED investment plan that would include the construction of a Gen 5.5 AMOLED fab in the Inner Mongolia city of Ordos.   The estimated $3.4 billion fab is scheduled for 2013 completion with a planned capacity of 24K substrates per month. 

Disruptive OLED Technology

Beyond replacing basic LCD technology due to superior performance and price, OLED display technology may also be developed to achieve new and novel applications. Flexible or bendable OLED displays — developed by Samsung, Sony, TDK, the U.S. Army and others — have demonstrated unique form factors, such as wearable wrist bands, curved displays, or roll-up large screens.  Flexible OLEDs can also be made with one sheet of glass, and even no glass, to further cost reduction. The achievement of roll-to-roll printing for OLED technology could potentially achieve enormous cost reductions; even rapidly accelerate OLED lighting applications. 

Transparent OLED displays, with transparent substrate, drive electronics and encapsulation, have also been demonstrated.  Among the applications for transparent OLED displays are navigation and control systems embedded in automotive or aeronautical windshields (showcased in the latest Mission Impossible movie).  3D TV is another application that can benefit from OLED displays.  In Active-Shutter 3D (the most common type of 3D used in TVs today) fast response times are needed to alternate stereoscopic images for the left and right eye.  The slower response rates of LCD displays can cause ghosting and blurring of images.  Also, unlike LCD, OLED displays also do not require a polarizing filter for 3D.

If new solutions for patterning, backplanes, materials optimization and other areas deliver cost competitive OLED technology in larger panel sizes, a new consumer war will begin in TVs, tablets and monitors and a rapid OLED manufacturing infrastructure build-out will likely occur.

January 10, 2012