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OLEDs too costly, micro-LEDs to steal the show promises Canadian startup

Technology News |
By Julien Happich

The announcement made mentions of a so-called Continuous Pixelation technology, eeNews Europe got in touch with Reza Chaji, VueReal’s founder and CEO to get a few more details.

Chaji received his PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering in 2008 from the University of Waterloo (Canada) where he developed a novel AMOLED pixel driver architecture to dramatically reduce settling times and parasitic capacitance while boosting circuit gains. But although he spent many years working with OLEDs, Chaji and his team are now fully focused on micro-LEDs.

Having worked extensively with OLEDs, the CEO says he understands too well their limitations, notably when operating them at high brightness or at high temperature.

“There are two big challenges with OLEDs, their low performance when you make individual pixels too small and yield in high-throughput manufacturing”, Chaji says.

“It costs too much if you have to repair thousands of defective OLEDs pixels in a panel with millions of pixels. One beautiful thing about LEDs compared to OLEDs is that the equipment to produce them costs only a fraction of the equipment required for OLEDs. The LED industry is mature, and we’ve developed the technology to transfer millions of those into a display”, the CEO continued.

“As for flexibility, it is very difficult to make a flexible OLED display without causing damage to the OLED encapsulant. We achieve much easier flexibility with our micro-LEDs and they are much brighter, over 4,000 nits for LEDs versus 500 to 700 nits typically for OLEDs” said Chaji.

“We have solved the yield and pitch issues for micro displays, we can have a sub-micron pitch, that’s what we call our Continuous Pixelation technology because you can’t see the pixels. Then we can transfer the micro-LEDs to a flexible substrate thanks to our patented Solid Printing technology and be cost competitive with OLEDs on smartphones and mid-size screens for tablets” boasted the CEO, “and much cheaper for larger panels like TVs”.

“The maths is simple, considering that for a UHD micro-display (3840×2160 pixels), you pay per pixels, if we make them smaller, then we make the overall display cheaper too”. In effect, the 6000ppi 4K micro-LED array is just about 0.7″ in diagonal and is claimed to surpass the performance of DLPs (with a higher contrast, a lower power consumption, a lower footprint and no requirement for a light engine).


Chaji explained that VueReal starts with readily available LED epitaxial wafers and then structures the individual pixels and their proprietary driving circuitry, compensating for intrinsic non-uniformities through specific algorithms. A patented lift-off process allows the company to transfer a layer only a few microns thick with millions of LED pixels, to larger substrates, at once. The company claims its micro-LED solution draws about three times less power than OLED displays of a similar size.

“We were able to identify the sources of defects so that we don’t transfer the defects to the panels, and we make repairs manageable” said Chaji without revealing more.

The startup is going through a series A round of funding to accelerate its technology deployment and is involved with several display manufacturers into development programs.

VueReal’s CEO is convinced that ultimately, micro-LEDs will displace OLEDs, beating them on cost and efficiency. “Our partners appreciate the economic feasibility, our transfer yields, and some hope to get their first products out by 2018” told us Chaji.

VueReal will offer two types of micro-LED displays, one with sub-micron pixels for AR and VR micro-display applications, and for larger displays a technology with pixels structured and pitched only a couple of microns apart.

Talking about the company’s roadmap for success, the CEO clarified: “We want to keep some manufacturing capability for niche displays, so we can further develop and improve our technology and stay ahead of competition. But for consumer products such as virtual reality headsets, we’ll license the technology to partners”. One niche application could be very high ppi, high brightness micro-displays for automotive head-up displays.

“In the long term, we think licensing will be our main source of income. Because our transfer process goes well beyond display applications. It bridges two different worlds, fast efficient semiconductors and flexible applications. We started with displays because we have a lot of connections in this industry, but it could be expanded to a lot more areas”, concluded Chaji.

Applications put forward by VueReal in its most recent press release include maskless photolithography or compact and high-bit-rate communication channels for inter/intra-chip, electronic devices, and data centers.

VueReal – www.vuereal.com

 

Related articles:

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When will microLED reach prime time? Yole’s analysis

Wafer-level micro-LED matrix delivers high brightness at 2540dpi

Sony demos 8Kx2K giant LED display


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