Chinese Display Makers Move Aggressively into OLED Production
June 12, 2017
In 2016, Chinese smartphone display manufacturers entering the OLED panels market, include BOE Technology Group, CSOT, Visionox, Tianma, Truly, EverDisplay and Royale. This development could in the long term threaten the Korean manufacturers, who currently hold a monopoly over the OLED market. The local Chinese companies are always in an advantageous position as they receive large financial funding from the government, making them capable to divert large funds into OLED panels manufacturing. Chinese OLED manufacturers believe that OLED display technology will soon replace TFT-LCD display panels.
BOE Technology Group, the leading panel maker in China is building a 6th Gen OLED Fab in Chengdu, Sichuan China, at a cost of more than US$5b. The facility will have a monthly production capacity of 10 million OLED panels/month for smartphones, and mass production will start in early 2019. Another Chinese manufacturer Huaxing Photoelectric Technology has already started a facility in Wuhan, Hubei, China.
BOE received financing from the Hefei City government to set up a JV that will focus on the production of OLED TV panels through the use of ink-jet printing. The project, which is expected to cost $117m (75% BOE/25% City government), will be located at the company’s Hefei City location where they already have Gen 5.5 and Gen 6 lines, and are constructing a Gen 10.5 line scheduled to open in May of 2018. The company also has a Gen 8.5 pilot line, which is used to research manufacturing processes for OLED, and would likely be the area where the JV would be adding the new JV tools. BOE ordered a Kateeva ink-jet tool last month for the JV. Using ink-jet printing to pattern emitters would significantly increase the material utilization efficiency, which, in its present state is 5% for emitters and 20% to 30% for common layers, compared to 80% to 90% for IJP. Another problem that IJP solves is scalability. FMM have topped out at ½ a 6th Gen Fab, but large TV panels are typically built on Gen 8.5 fabs and soon to use Gen 10.5. The issue here is not only the material utilization but the Capex. Since it takes two full OLED lines for each active matrix line, the capital for the OLED portion is at least double what a comparable LCD fab costs. Using ink-jet printing, where soluble OLED materials and print heads that deposit the material directly on the substrate as individual sub-pixel dots is a highly efficiency process, but comes with new issues as the drying process, the elimination of the “coffee ring” effect, the uniformity of the sub-pixels and the performance of the soluble material in terms of efficacy and lifetime, which has been substantially below the VTE material. Kateeva, Panasonic and TEL/Epson have been working on refining this process for many years, and this goal is the attraction seen from panel manufacturers most recently. BOE demonstrated two QD displays that were Ink Jet Printed and China Star has been working toward developing an ink-jet printing OLED line, as has Japan based JOLED, with a proprietary IJP from Panasonic. LG Display has a IJP Gen 8.5 pilot line, where they are using the TEL/Epson tool along with material from several soluble material suppliers. While the attraction that panel producers have for ink-jet printing is very strong, given its very high material utilization efficiency, the process and tools have been under development for many years but have not yet been used in mass production for printing emitters.