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Pricey materials weigh down AMOLED TVs

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:AMOLED TV? shipment? flat panel market?

IHS Inc. has released a market forecast for the active matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) TV market that also recently cited manufacturing concerns as one of the reasons for the dull uptake of the devices. Despite the excitement generated by the latest CES event, global shipments of the sets will be tight that is also due to the expensive materials used for the products.

Recent innovations in AMOLED backplane technology, materials and equipment and suppliers' investments in newer generation AMOLED fabs have made AMOLED TVs possible. However, pricing remains much higher compared to current LCD TVs in the market.

High manufacture cost lags AMOLED TV adoption
Although AMOLED TVs will approach nearly 2.1 million units in 2015, it will account for only one percent of the flat panel market by 2015. IHS has attributed the high manufacturing cost of the products as the reason for this.

This is because AMOLED manufacturing efficiencies and output yields are unlikely to match those of LCDs for the next three years, said IHS. Furthermore, pricing for AMOLED materials still will command a premium because of the limited number of suppliers. Large sized AMOLED panel production faces issues with scaling manufacturing to newer generation fabs. These factors are keeping AMOLED TV pricing high, added the market research firm.

However, IHS expects AMOLED display suppliers, equipment makers, material makers and TV makers to cooperate in developing more efficient and cost effective ways in order to make large sized AMOLED panels. As a result, prices are expected to decline.

Early production of 55in AMOLED panels is likely to be conducted at existing eighth generation amorphous silicon (a-Si) LCD fabs that will be converted to make the oxide silicon backplanes needed for AMOLEDs. Both LG Display and Samsung plan to move mass production to eighth generation AMOLED lines in the future. And as manufacturing matures, large sized AMOLED panels have the potential of becoming cheaper.

AMOLED TV shipment

Global AMOLED TV shipment forecast (Thousands of units)

LGD indicated the price for its 55in AMOLED TV is expected to decline to $4,000 next year, when comparable LCD TV prices are likely to reach a price point of less than $1,000.

One name, various approaches
While there was no visible difference between the two TVs shown by LGD and Samsung, they are using different AMOLED technologies. Samsung's AMOLED TV panel uses a horizontal red/green/blue (RGB) pixel structure, which requires a fine metal mask (FMM) for the patterning of AMOLED material. Current horizontal RGB structure is challenging to implement on large substrates, as a fine pitch alignment of the FMM and the glass substrate is needed.

TV specifications

Specifications of AMOLED TVs vs. LCD TVs

In comparison, Samsung's AMOLED technology mainly uses low temperature polysilicon (LTPS) LCD as the backplane. However, for larger fabs, the company may consider working with oxide silicon backplanes as an intermediary step before new generation low temperature polysilicon (LTPS) backplanes are available.

LGD's AMOLED TV panel uses a vertical white OLED (WOLED) pixel structure with a color filter. The use of WOLEDs eliminates the need for an RGB mask, resulting in improved efficiencies and increasing the ease of making finer pitch pixels on the panel. However, this approach needs an additional color filter. The oxide silicon backplane of LGD's 55in TV likely will be manufactured at LGD's existing eighth-generation a-Si LCD fab.

LGD indicated that such a conversion of an existing a-Si fab to make oxide silicon backplanes will require almost 50 percent less investment than a new LTPS LCD fab. This fab, according to LGD, is able to do three half cuts of 55in displays from one substrate.

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