CEO and Co-Founder
Principal Analyst, Technology & Market, Displays
CEO and Co-Founder
Reza Chaji is the CEO and co-founder of VueReal Inc. This Waterloo-based company is focused on revolutionary technologies for enhancing electronic systems (displays, sensors, AI, Autonomy, medical, health, automotive …) by integrating millions of highly efficient micro-optoelectronic devices into system substrates.
He has extensive experience in developing advanced technologies and commercializing them. His work for enhancing the yield, quality, and reliability of OLED TVs has been adopted in all of the OLED TVs in the market.
He received his Ph.D. (2008) in Electrical Engineering at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada. He worked on designing and implementing large-area electronic systems for AMOLED displays, biomedical imagers, and bio-array sensors.
He has over 70 published papers and one book in the field of display and sensor, over 200 filed/granted patent applications, and received several prestigious scholarships and awards, including the Young Alumni Achievement Medal, Faculty of Engineering, University of Waterloo, 2012; CMC Douglas R. Colton Medal for Research Excellence 2009; and Strategic Microelectronics Council of ITAC Industrial Collaboration Award 2007.
Principal Analyst, Technology & Market, Displays
High-profile startup VueReal is attacking microLED challenges on all fronts. With progress on mass transfer, small chip efficiency, backplanes, and overall display architecture, the company aims at soon producing displays for automotive, wearables, and AR and even confronts one of the most challenging applications for microLED: smartphones. High-end luxury TVs and various enterprise Augmented Reality products have been available since 2022 but still represent anecdotal volume. However, Yole Intelligence expects consumer microLED applications to take off from 2024 and accelerate in 2025, with smartwatches being the first high-volume products, followed by automotive and TV applications. The smartphone is one of the most challenging applications for microLED, but VueReal thinks it might have the answers.
Eric Virey, Ph.D, Principal Analyst at Yole Intelligence, had the pleasure of interviewing Reza Chaji, the CEO and co-founder of VueReal Inc. and discussing the current challenges in microLED.
Eric Virey (EV): Please introduce yourself to our readers
Reza Chaji (RC): I am the CEO and co-founder of VueReal Inc. This Waterloo-based company is focused on revolutionary technologies for enhancing electronic systems (displays, sensors, AI, Autonomy, medical, health, automotive …) by integrating millions of highly efficient micro-optoelectronic devices into system substrates. Before that, I worked on developing circuit and system solutions to manufacturing problems in large-area electronics. This work was part of my Ph.D. and has been licensed to LGD. It is used in almost all OLED TVs to improve the yield, quality, and reliability of such products.
EV: What is VueReal’s backstory/history?
RC: We got involved in microLED displays in the early days. The idea was to develop similar techniques to what we did for AMOLED and solve microLED issues. However, after trying to find partners in the field and doing in-depth research, we found that issues were beyond what circuits and systems could resolve. We were experienced in backplane design and started looking at opportunities to modify the backplane to help with microLED limitations (yield, scalability, cost, and performance). We developed a few ideas called “backplane-assisted transfer.” We started VueReal to accelerate the development of these ideas in 2016. The technology evolved significantly over time, and now it can be adapted for any other device besides microLEDs. We changed the name to “microSolid Printing” to reflect the potential of our solution.
EV: VueReal is known for some innovative approaches to microLED technological challenges. Can you describe the key innovations you’re the proudest of?
RC: Our microSolid Printing process was developed to enable scalable and high-yield printing of microdevices into surfaces. This process allows the transfer of smaller pitch microdevices with yield and throughput needed for the display industry. In addition, the tools required for such a process are low maintenance compared to other solutions.
In addition to our printing process, we have a solution for AR based on a self-aligned structure offering high-performance full-color AR displays.
And a solution for wearables and smartphones that can lead to cost-competitive microLED displays for these applications.
EV: For mass transfer, what are the major advantages of your cartridge-based process?
RC: The four major issues limiting the application of microLED displays are cost, yield, scalability, and performance. These issues are due to the nature of the processes used for transferring microLEDs into the backplane.
Cost: For small displays, the cost is dominated by the microLED itself, so using small-pitch microLED is essential for such applications. Most transfer solutions have limitations with that (they may transfer small devices but cannot do small microLEDs and small pitch). The cost for larger displays is dominated by transfer and yield. Most solutions cannot easily scale the throughput. VueReal microSolid printing enables the transfer of small-pitch microLEDs at high throughput.
Yield: the complex solutions (pick and place) and solutions that are prone to defects (e,g., laser process) have limitations in terms of achievable yield. The yield, especially, will suffer significantly if the process is sped up for higher throughput. VueReal’s solution decouples the yield and throughput challenges. Therefore, it can achieve high throughput and high yield for small devices.
Scalability: a scalable solution, achieving 100s of millions of displays per year, should not require an out-of-range number of toolsets and components. The VueReal approach reduces the number of wafers by up to 10 times, depending on the application, reducing the toolset requirements.
Performance: there is non-uniformity in the wafers, especially if you want to scale production and cannot afford to use only 1 out of every 10 wafers. The VueReal approach overcomes the wafer non-uniformity and can enable the use of all wafers. It also can achieve 80% wafer utilization (making most wafer areas useful) compared to under 50% for other solutions.
EV: Does the process require custom equipment, or can it be adapted to off-the-shelf transfer equipment now available from various vendors?
RC: We have been using the existing equipment and adapting them with our transfer solutions, enabling our partners to have access to more tool suppliers.
EV: What is so unique about Vuereal’s new display architecture that could allow you to accelerate the production and commercialization of automotive and wearable devices?
RC: In addition to the transfer and microLED technologies, VueReal has developed solutions to enhance key features of microLED displays. For example, display architectures with very high transparency and pixel architectures that enable small-pitch microLED integration for smartphones/smartwatches,
EV: Will your backplanes use traditional TFT, microdrivers, or a combination of both?
RC: At the moment, most of our displays are using traditional TFT with optimized design and driving schemes for microLEDs. We have been developing practical microchip solutions in terms of cost and integration complexity. One solution we have been working on is a hybrid-passive-active chiplet for lower-cost integration. It can reduce the cost of chips significantly.
EV: How small a die can realistically be produced and assembled without affecting efficiency and mass transfer yields? What is the highest on-wafer chip density you can achieve?
RC: It depends on the application. For AR, we have achieved a 2um red with ~10% EQE. We think we can boost it even higher!
EV: With all that, do you see a realistic path toward smartphone applications? In what timeframe?
RC: I think we did crack the code for it! The smartphone has much more to gain from this technology, not just displays but other functionalities you can integrate into the display. However, the first step is to make the display work. And all our numbers indicate it is doable with our recent developments. We have a couple of surprises this year!
EV: Is VueReal also pursuing AR microdisplay applications?
RC: We have developed a self-align process for high-resolution full-color AR. We have experienced some delays in sample development as our backplane source is no longer available. We are developing our backplane and will be able to supply samples to customers soon.
EV: What is Vuereal’s business strategy? Are you planning to manufacture displays internally? License your technology? How will you source chips, backplanes, etc.?
RC: Our business models center around the microSolid printing platform, which allows for the seamless integration of millions of microdevices into surfaces, creating smart systems on a panel. We believe this technology, in the hands of large and small companies/groups, will revolutionize the next generation of products ranging from consumer electronics to automotive, health, medical, etc. Therefore, we plan to offer turnkey production solutions that include toolsets, technology, different microdevice cartridge supply, and more.
In addition, we are working with OEMs directly to develop products that are tailored to their specifications and applications. We start with a feasibility study and take them through different stages all the way to production. We are scaling our internal production capability to support such strategic markets.
EV: VueReal raised US$18.4M in 2022 in a series B funding and received US$7.8M in March this year in government funds. What’s your time horizon for a series C funding round?
RC: Due to significant demand for our solutions and opportunities ahead, we are reviewing possible acceleration plans that may require accelerated fundraising! Stay tuned; we will update this soon.
EV: Any closing thoughts for our readers?
Unlike other manufacturing processes, printing fabrication can be adopted anywhere and with any production volume. Today, we can print our documents at home, anywhere in the world, without hesitation. This was a luxury a few years ago and impossible before that. We aim to democratize the development of groundbreaking and life-enhancing products by facilitating the scalable, cost-effective, and eco-friendly integration of advanced semiconductor functionalities.