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TOWARD DISPLAY EVERYWHERE
The display market is a gigantic industry that has experienced multiple revolutions on the way to inundating our daily lives – and has many more to come. The FPD industry moved from plasma to LCD to OLED, on the trail of an ever-growing hunger for performance, size, brightness, and contrast. Nowadays, various technologies are being developed to improve LCD performance and reduce the gap with OLED: miniLED, Quantum Dot (QD), dual cell, etc. But OLED is also a moving target with ongoing research toward new structure and new materials: WOLED, QD-OLED, etc. Established as a key semiconductor-related industry, the upcoming microLED revolution is also about to change the display landscape once again, from manufacturing processes to the development of a dedicated supply chain, from added value to the flow of investment.
Semiconductors made a strong way into display applications with the integration of LEDs in the early 2000s, allowing development of thinner and brighter electronic systems, and opening the way to a real display revolution. Nowadays, the display industry deals with the manufacturing of different types of displays used in the consumer market but also various other industries. All are generating huge revenues and are thus under high stakeout.
Display market dynamics, research and development, and technology developments are pushing the industry on the brink of a new evolution. OLED has led performances’ development in the past years but miniLED and MicroLED technologies are gaining traction. MiniLED as the right compromise between LCD cost and OLED performance. And microLED as a real competitor to OLED dominancy in the premium market.
Those trends will induce much higher content of semiconductor devices per display but also different supply chains that could reshuffle the cards in a quite traditional industry.
Integration of new technologies such as miniLED or microLED will have a direct impact on the structure of the display supply chain, further putting semiconductor technology at the heart of it.
Up until now, it has been fully integrated and with a supply chain dominated by a few players. Depending on level of disruption of display technologies, changes might copycat what is happening in the semiconductor industry, potentially enabling fabless business models for display. And this movement could revolutionize the complete industry.
Power could transfer into the hands of the OEM makers, and the added value of the display makers will fall.
There will also be a partial transfer of the display supply chain to the semiconductor supply chain, further destabilizing entrenched display manufacturers.
Strong momentum doesn’t guarantee success: many technical and supply chain challenges could still derail the implementation of microLEDs and other displays solutions. Understanding the status of new display technologies remains critical, to spot potential roadblocks where the industry now sees a clear runway.
We are here to help you figure out the technologies and related applications, apprehend the intellectual property landscape and identify the business opportunities. Through technology and market analyses, Yole Group reveals process flows and semiconductor manufacturing processes, as well as related equipment and material’s needs. We also cover the overall competitive landscape and key players. In addition, cost aspects and roadmaps are part of our daily activities. As a partner of Yole Group, Piseo is also able to thoroughly test such new displays, establishing the link between performance, technical choices made by the leading display companies.
In the “more than $100-billion” FPD market, China won the LCD war, and the race to dominate capacity and volume is essentially over. The display industry is now turning its focus to technologies that could deliver differentiation and high margins like miniLED and MicroLED. Meanwhile, between attrition and a COVID-driven boost in demand, the panel industry has swung back into profitability since mid-2020 and is generating cash to fund the development of those new technologies.
The LCD display business model needs high-volume commodity products to absorb huge manufacturing costs. This allows manufacturers to make money on premium products. By contrast, microLED display could stem capex-light operations focused on serving premium markets exclusively. The level of effort and number of participants keeps increasing and new companies are emerging regularly. Pretty much all display manufacturers now have sizable microLED efforts, which cumulated investment now exceeds multi-billion dollars.
MicroLED technology has also improved in key areas, such as efficiency and beam shaping. Samsung and Vuzix (with JB Display) have introduced the first commercial microLED products in 2021. Other players are setting up plants to either meet early demand (PlayNitride for Samsung TVs), accelerate innovation cycles (Aledia), or bet on their ability to create innovative, high added-value displays (Stratacache). Most significantly, Apple is looking to have its own supply chain with its partners, and we still expect an initial ramp up to come by late 2023 at the earliest.
Startups are trying to monetize their technologies through licensing, or by selling microdisplays (JBD, Lumens), chip-on-a-carrier, chiplets (PlayNitride, LC Square, Ultra Displays, X Display, Saphlux, VueReal). X Display is offering a transfer tool and setting up a (mostly) fabless ecosystem around its display architecture (µdriver and TFT) to allow its licensees to purchase all key components and services. VueReal is also licensing and setting up manufacturing for low volumes of custom displays.
Increasing the performance of displays and lowering their power consumption and cost have been, thus far, the key drivers of the (augmented reality) display industry.
Now, an evolution in the supply chain is another key factor to take into account.
All these elements are pushing an unprecedented evolution of the industry, with OEMs changing their needs and new companies entering the field – not to mention a flurry of new technologies to support these changes.
The shift from LCD to OLED – and now to miniLED and microLED – is pulling new investment in and driving radical innovation at the equipment and material level. As always in the display industry, the changes in technologies mean a reshuffling of the cards for the complete industry – from interactions between OEM-display makers to added value for the attendant manufacturing supply chain.