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Korean startup to build OLED plant in Singapore

Posted: 27 Feb 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ness display? organic light-emitting diode? oled? display?

South Korean startup Ness Display Co. Ltd will spend $40 million to $60 million to build an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) plant here [Singapore] that is expected to produce a peak of 15 million to 20 million display panels a year by 2006.

Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) sweetened the offer by investing as much as $12.5 million in the company as part of the government's strategy to invest in manufacturing, which contributed almost 25 percent to the country's gross domestic product last year. Ness Display runs a pilot production facility in South Korea, so its decision to set up a production base in Singapore is a coup for the EDB.

Other display makers have also invested in production in Singapore. Last year, Eastgate Technology Ltd promised to spend up to $14.7 million on an advanced manufacturing facility for OLEDs. The island state is also home to Advanced Flat Panel Display Pte. Ltd, a maker of low-temperature polysilicon display panels for notebooks, PC monitors and TVs. AFPD counts both Toshiba Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd as investors.

A cluster of companies supporting the FPD industry also have sprung up, including glass substrate maker NH Techno, chemical manufacturer Nagase and LCD driver chipmaker Hitachi Nippon Steel.

IQE plc, an outsource manufacturer of epitaxial wafers, also has shown interest in OLED manufacturing. Eastgate Technology has signed an agreement with OTB Group BV, of Holland, to buy equipment to manufacture polymer OLED devices in Singapore. OTB will develop, deliver and install equipment for cathode deposition and thin-film encapsulation and will train Eastgate's engineers.

Collaborative research

Eastgate has also signed a memorandum of understanding for a technical collaboration with the Institute of Material Research and Engineering (IMRE), a research unit of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, to further explore OLEDs.

Trial production at Ness Display's facility is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of the financial year ending December 31, and revenue and profits are not expected until 2005.

IQE's chief executive officer, Drew Nelson, has visited Singapore many times and has been encouraged by the EDB to make Singapore its manufacturing testbed in Asia. However, the resignation of chief technology officer Tom Hierl and chief operating officer Steve Byars in March 2003 slowed the Cardiff, Wales-based company's expansion plans.

But, according to an ex-business development executive from the Welsh Development Authority, based in Singapore, IQE plans to return to Asia to invest in manufacturing in both China and Singapore.

Singapore has realized the importance of R&D in high-tech manufacturing. For 2001 to 2005, $4 billion has been allocated to 12 local research institutes, which house close to 2,000 engineers and scientists. So far, the IMRE has researched advanced materials for OLED applications.

The Institute of Microelectronics is focusing on advanced semiconductor processes and packaging technologies, while the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology is conducting R&D on manufacturing process technology.

According to iSuppli Corp./Stanford Resources, a U.S.-based technology research firm in El Segundo, California, the global market for OLEDs could reach $3.1 billion by 2009, up from $129 million last year, growing at a compound rate of 56 percent from 2003 to 2009. OLEDs have high visual contrast and emit light on plastics and glass, making lightweight, flexible displays possible.

Production costs are half as much as for other display technologies, and OLEDs can consume almost 80 percent less power than LCDs, advocates say.

-Tony Santiago

EE Times

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