Some New OLED Production Fabs Need Overhaul to Support ON Cell Touch
July 31, 2017
The new production lines installed or added at the 6G LTPS TFT LCD plants of Taiwan-based AU Optronics (AUO), Innolux and China-based Tianma Micro-electronics and China Star Optoelectronics Technology (CSOT), as well as at the 5.5G LTPS plant of BOE Technology, for production of smartphone-use panels at the end of 2016 or early 2017 have to be overhauled to compete effectively with rivals in Korea and Japan, according to Digitimes Research. Owing to that China-based smartphone vendors used to purchase on-cell touch AMOLED panels from Samsung Display or hybrid in-cell touch LTPS TFT LCD panels from Japan Display (JDI) for their high-end smartphones, flat panel makers in the Greater China area have developed AMOLED panels integrated with on-cell or in-cell touch sensors to cater to the high-end smartphone segment, according to DigiTimes. Major LCD driver IC suppliers, including FocalTech Systems, Himax Technologies, Novatek Microelectronics and Synaptics have all rolled out in-cell TDDI (touch with display driver integration) solutions supporting mass production of in-cell TDDI panels. Since the development of high-end smartphones has been trending toward designs with bezel-less frames, high screen-to-body ratios, and high aspect ratios for differentiation, panel makers in the Greater China area are also looking at adopting COF (chip on film) solutions instead of COG (chip on glass) ones for panel production. However, flat panel makers in the Greater China area may not be able to start volume production of TDDI LCD panels with COF solutions until year-end 2017 as major LCD driver IC suppliers are not expected to be able to supply COF solutions until the end of July 2017, while there is also a bottleneck in the PCB supply chain to supply flexible PCBs supporting COF production, and back-end module makers are also reluctant to commit new investments to support build-ups of new technology, Digitimes commented. Prices for Small/Medium LCD panels for smartphones took a dive in the first quarter of 2017 due to mounting inventory levels at smartphone vendors in China, as well as increased capacity for small- to medium-size LTPS panels. However, the smartphone panel sector regained its growth momentum recently amid the rising popularity of 18:9 all-screen smartphones, setting smartphone panel prices on an upward spiral, added the sources. With shipments of all-screen models from smartphone vendors likely to expand significantly in the third quarter and reaching a peak in the fourth quarter, small- to medium-size a-Si LCD pane prices may start climbing upward in August, stated the sources. Shipments of 18:9 all-screen smartphones are expected to top 150 million units in 2017, according to the latest estimate of the industry.