OLED will advance from smartphones to IT products as related mass generation products are planned, but evaporation equipment presents challenges, says TrendForce

OLED will advance from smartphones to IT products as related mass generation products are planned, but evaporation equipment presents challenges, says TrendForce

Taipei, Taiwan – () –TrendForcelatest report –AMOLED technology and the state of the market—Indicates that the display panel industry has begun plans for the large generation of off-the-shelf products making OLED panels. The transition of OLED display technology to older generations is driven by recent improvements in related process technologies and materials. Also, brands have been pushing for OLED adoption for larger display products. TrendForce predicts that by 2025, the penetration rate of OLED panels among IT products will reach 2.8% due to the gradual deployment of supporting panel production capacity. After that, the penetration rate of OLED in the IT sector is expected to increase significantly in 2026, reaching 5.2%.

According to TrendForce’s analysis, panel suppliers are facing challenges in several areas as they plan to migrate OLED panel manufacturing from the current G6 fabs to the production of larger generation fabs so that this display technology can crossover into the IT sector. These areas are as follows:

[1] Evaporation equipment

Regarding the selection of OLED evaporation equipment and related process technologies, some panel suppliers hope that the vertical evaporation method will solve the problem of soft metal mask (FMM) sagging. However, vertical evaporation is a new processing method that still has a lot of technical uncertainties to work through. For the current horizontal steaming method, plate suppliers would like to see more improvements so that they can maintain a certain level of production capacity with fewer equipment than before. In addition, Apple is considering adopting a dual-stack tandem architecture (Tandem OLED) which can significantly extend the lifespan of its OLED screens. From the perspective of panel suppliers, setting the evaporation handling capacity within a certain amount of fab space is more difficult if the OLED panels feature the tandem structure. However, there are workarounds to increase the lifespan of OLED screens. One method is to perform OLED pixel simulation, in which a blue sub-pixel layer is added to help achieve better color balance and longer-lasting colors.

Increasing the utilization rate of glass is also another goal behind the transition to the older generations of the glass industry. For example, G8.7 currently has a 10% increase in production efficiency compared to G8.5. However, target customers may have a preferred fumigation equipment supplier. In the case of Apple, it prefers Canon Talkie from Japan. Thus, there is a possibility that the sizes of the OLED panel substrates will be limited by the sizes of the panels that Tokki’s evaporation equipment can handle in the future.

Turning to the technologies in the manufacturing of the OLED back panels, LTPO provides higher efficiency in terms of power consumption. In addition, large OLED panels will need an additional electrode to support the transparent cathode in the pixel circuit. The extra electrode helps to enhance conductivity thus solving the problem of low IR often seen in large format panels. On the other hand, the number of image masks used in pixel circuit fabrication is determined by the locations of the electrodes, so some designs may require more masks. Moreover, the addition of a new electrode can affect the transparency of OLED panels.

[2] Foldability

If OLED is approved for foldable laptops, finding the right type of material for the cover lens also requires some considerations. Currently, ultra-thin glass (UTG) is superior to colorless polyimide (CPI) in terms of performance. However, the former has shortcomings such as higher prices and a relatively less developed supply chain. Samsung has adopted a “colour-on-encapsulation (COE) filter” for the OLED screens of its foldable smartphones. This solution reduces the thickness of the OLED screen by eliminating the circular polarizer, allowing for higher brightness and greater foldability. As for foldable laptops, these have a larger screen size and are therefore subject to more glare. Therefore, to effectively absorb reflected light while giving up the circular polarizer, some sort of ‘black pixel definition layer (BPDL)’ is needed in addition to the black matrix resistor built into the existing color filter. However, there are challenges in the manufacture of BPDL because it is difficult to form and deposit a relatively thick film shaded with an organic dye using the exposure process.

[3] touch function

Given the standard touch functionality with smartphone screen panels, they are more susceptible to environmental noise interference as screen size increases. In the past, mutual capacitance sensing was sufficient in terms of performance. However, with OLED now being adopted for touchscreen laptops, switching to intrinsic capacitive sensing may be necessary to solve the problem of faulty touch points. However, this change in sensing technology will also necessitate a revision of the touch circuit design and die sizes of the touch and display controllers so that the thickness of the lower display borders does not increase at the expense of the entire ventilation area.

[4] thorny photo

On a system level, image sticking (burn-in) on an OLED screen tends to occur in parts of the screen where application icons are located because the icons are static images with fixed locations. This issue, which relates to the lifespan of OLED pixels, has been continuously worked on since its debut. Anti-aging solutions now include pixel shifting and tandem structure, which can reduce pixel current by half. In the future, OLED development can reach the point where combustion can be effectively solved. By then, a dark mode featuring a black background and white texts could also be possible for OLED screens.

After an overview of the above issues in manufacturing large OLED panels, TrendForce is now turning to OLED adoption for IT products. In general, there are three main directions in the long-term development of technology.

[1] Reduce costs

Cost savings can be achieved through several methods such as raising the glass utilization rate, simplifying the LTPO + COE process, optimizing the electron transport layer (ETL), developing local sourcing of key materials, and adopting more advanced evaporation equipment. The cost of manufacturing large-format OLED panels for IT products will also decrease due to other factors. For example, the price of UTG will decrease as the number of suppliers for this type of material increases. Moreover, better choices of designs and materials for folding laptop display hinges can emerge. Finally, the printing process has the highest material utilization rate. Therefore, panel suppliers will need to find ways to apply the printing process to the manufacture of the tandem body and other parts of the OLED panel.

[2] Efficiency and reliability improvements

Panel suppliers will incorporate new technologies such as COE and Micro Lens Panel (MLP) to increase light emission efficiency and lower power consumption. At the same time, they will try to extend the life of existing OLED materials. To further reduce the problem of image sticking in certain parts of the screen, the user interface must be designed in ways that address the problem of static image content causing OLED pixels to age and deteriorate.

[3] Greater range of applications

Flexible, thin, and self-emissive OLED panels enable different foldable shapes for different user scenarios. At the same time, it also allows integration with other technologies such as the camera under the screen, fingerprint sensor, etc.

In short, OLED is gradually becoming mainstream for smartphones, but it still has many challenges to overcome in order to expand into other applications with larger display sizes. However, TFT-LCD as a traditional display technology is almost at its peak in terms of product design. Thus, OLED, which has much more room for imagination, is an important technology that brands will focus on in the future. TrendForce believes that the next year or two will be a critical period for the growth of OLED in the IT products market. The extent of improvements in related technologies and the scale of investments in the large production capacity supporting the generation panel will determine whether the adoption of OLED in the IT sector will proceed smoothly.

For more details on this press release, please visit: https://www.trendforce.com/presscenter/news/20221201-11483.html

For additional insights from TrendForce analysts on the latest technology industry news, trends, and forecasts, please visit our blog at https://insider.trendforce.com/

About TrendForce (www.trendforce.com)

TrendForce is a global provider of the latest developments, insights and analytics to the technology industry. Having served businesses for more than a decade, the company has built a strong membership base of 500,000 subscribers. TrendForce has earned a reputation as an organization that provides insightful and rigorous analysis of the technology industry through five major research divisions: Semiconductor Research, Display Research, Optoelectronics Research, Green Energy Research, and ICT Applications Research. Founded in Taipei, Taiwan in 2000, TrendForce has expanded its presence in China since 2004 with offices in Shenzhen and Beijing.

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