Micro LED Technology Could Challenge Micro Display Incumbents
January 28, 2019
AR/VR applications are spurring demand for microdisplay devices, now adopting three major display technologies LCoS, HTPS and AMOLED, but micro LED technology could rival the current mainstream technologies over the long term.
Microdisplay was used as electronic viewfinder (EVF) in digital cameras, but market demand for standalone digital cameras turned sluggish since the emergence of smartphones. Now with the popularity of AR/VR gears, sales of microdisplay devices are expected to be back on a growth track due to smart glasses and head-mounted display (HMD). LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) commanded the highest market share at 59.7% in 2018, followed by 27.8% for AMOLED (active matrix organic LED), and 6.6% for HTPS (high temperature poly silicon), according to Fuji Chimera Research Institute. In terms of revenue the market was US$161 million in 2018, including US$96 million for LCoS models, US$55 million for AMOLED and US$10 million for HTPS. The institute also estimates that the AMOLED microdisplay scale will grow to US$750 million by 2021 for a CAGR of 10.9% and that average unit price for such microdisplay will reach US$32, 35% higher than those for LCoS and HTPS ones.
The widely hyped micro LED technology has yet to mature enough for normal applications, as there are many technological bottlenecks that need to be addressed, including epitaxial wafer process, mass transfer, defect detection and current drive. At CES 2019, Plessey, UK-based optoelectronic technology solutions provider, demonstrated its AR and VR glasses powered by micro LED and developed in cooperation with Vuzix. The company said its micro LEDs offer 10 times the resolution, 100 times the contrast ratio, and up to 1,000 times the luminance compared with traditional OLEDs and the device uses only half the power consumption, doubling battery life in portable handsets. The Plessey configuration uses all blue micro LEDs (size undefined) with QDs to convert the blue into red and green, similar to the design of Samsung’s QD/OLED TV. It is likely that the Plessey approach will have to deal with the ~92% absorption function of the QDs, which Samsung resolved by using a color filter, which of course would cut the luminance and efficiency of the device.