Involving multiple existing industries and new industries, micoLED displays may shape the existing LED and display supply chain, resulting in a lengthy and complex new one says a new report from IDTechEx. New technology approaches and new products can also provide new opportunities for the players, such as the CMOS industry can take a position in the microLED display supply chain.
The microLED market will be driven by augmented/mixed reality (AR/MR), virtual reality (VR), large video displays, TVs and monitors, automotive displays, mobile phones, smart watches and wearables, tablets and laptops.
The increasing number of activities from display suppliers can be seen from the large cumulated investment of around $5 billion, the increasing number of patent filing, as well as the prototypes/products brought in by microLED vendors. These include AUO, PlayNitride, RiTdisplay, Samsung, LG, Sony, TCL, Tianma, Konka, Glo, Plessey, JBD, X-Display, VueReal, CSOT, Sharp, Kyocera, etc.
However, prototypes to prove technology/science readiness with lab/fab scale production are very different from mass manufactured commercial products. The latter requires zero defects for consumer products. Although science has been proved there, what are more challenging are the engineering and manufacturing issues.
For instance, conventional LEDs can reach external quantum efficiencies (EQEs) to around 70 percent, while tiny microLEDs less than 10 µm may struggle to reach 20 percent. Red LEDs are especially challenging with low EQEs and brittle feature. Tiny microLEDs have a large surface area, which may lead to more defects during the fabrication process. Therefore, solving engineering/manufacturing challenges is important, including die size miniaturization while maintaining the high efficiency, chip design and chip manufacturing technique improvement. Other issues include mass transfer yield, defect repair, testing, uniformity, colour conversion, etc.
Next: MicroLED fabrication
To fabricate a microLED display, many technologies and processes are involved, such as epitaxy, photolithography, chip fabrication, substrate removal, inspection, mass transfer, bonding and interconnection, testing, repair, backplane and drive IC, etc. After years of development, some technology difficulties have been solved, while new challenges are placed in front of us. For instance, several years ago, the major efforts were concentrated in die miniaturization, chip design and mass transfer. Recently, more and more players realize a complete understanding of all the processes is key. Therefore, an increasing number of people put more efforts also on technologies such as inspection, repair, driving, image improvement, light management, and high-volume production equipment.
The COVID-19 global pandemic will make US-China relations more tense, with globalization is in decline with closed borders, travel restrictions, export conditions and paralyzed supply chains.
On the one hand, IDTechEx has heard from a few small companies that they deliberately chose to partner with companies who are less likely to be affected by the trade war. On the other hand, although globalization is still the general trend, regional clusters may play a more important role in the supply chain building than global network in the future.
In terms of cost, the cost of the front plane of a typical microLED display is dependent on the number of LEDs, instead of area, which is different from OLED and LCD. This is why fabricating a smart phone with the same resolution of a TV may result in similar cost projection, rather than orders of magnitude lower expectation.
To create a new display market requires features that cannot be enabled by alternatives. Typical examples include displays with customized shape and displays with sensor integrations. The emerging new displays expand our imagination beyond existing displays and help to get to the world with ubiquitous displays.
The report, “MicroLED Displays 2020-2030: Technology, Commercialization, Opportunity, Market and Players” is at www.IDTechEx.com/MicroLED
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