Flat panel makers in Korea, Japan and China have been committing heavy investments for building their respective capacities for large-size OLED panels since the second half of 2019, and the move is likely to usher in a new stage of competition in the global panel industry in the coming years.
Makers’ plans to enhance their deployments in the large-size OLED panel segment come as the small- to medium-size OLED segment is likely to see oversupply in the near future due to recent capacity ramps by some makers.
Driven by the adoption of major handset brands including Samsung Electronics, Apple, Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi, the penetration rate of OLED panels in the smartphone sector is estimated to have surpassed 30% in 2019 and the ratio is expected to reach over 50% in 2023, making OLED the mainstream technology for handsets.
In other words, the market for small- to medium-size OLED panels will become increasingly mature in the next three years forcing flat panel makers to enhance their deployments for large-size applications.
Capitalizing on its current capacity as the world’s sole maker able to roll out large-size OLED TV panels, LG Display (LGD) has joined forces with major TV brands to continue to expand its ecosystem for large-size TV panels.
Using OLED panels from LGD, a total of 15 TV brands marketed OLED TVs worldwide in 2019 compared to three in 2014. In China, nine brands are currently competing in the OLED TV segment – LG, Sony, Philips, Panasonic, Skyworth, Konka, Changhong, Hisense and Vilus.
LGD are estimated to have shipped 3.8 million OLED TV panels in 2019, up from 2.8 million from a year earlier. Meanwhile, global shipments of OLED TVs are projected to expand to 3.5 million units from 2.4 million units for the same period.
To cope with the expanding market, LGD is expanding its capacity for large-size OLED panels. It kicked off volume production of its 8.5G OLED line in Guangzhou, China at the end of August 2019 with a capacity of 60,000 substrates a month.
Including its plant in Paju, Korea, LGD currently has a capacity of 130,000 substrates for large-size OLED panels. And the company’s annual output of OLED panels is likely to reach over 10 million units when its new 10.5G OLED line in Paju comes online in 2022.
Samsung Display’s aggressive deployment in OLED panel is also striking. The company announced in October 2019 to invest up to KRW13.2 trillion (US$11.418 billion) to convert its L8-1 LCD line into a QD-OLED line.
It demonstrates Samsung Display’s determination to also lead in the large-size high-end TV panel market, having already become the top vendor for small- and medium-size OLED handset panels.
Japanese panel makers have been following in the steps of LGD and Samsung Display, highlighting by the formation of a new joint venture, JOLED, by Panasonic and Sony. JOLED completed the construction of its new plant at the end of November 2019, with production of its OLED panels to kick off in 2020.
JOLED’s plant is a 5.5G line and has a monthly capacity of 20,000 substrates sized 1,300mm by 1,500mm with plans to roll out large-size OLED panels using an inkjet printing technology.
In China, Chongqing HKC kicked off operations of its first, as well as the world’s first, 8.6G OLED line in the second half of 2019, having established four 8.6G LCD fabs.
HKC’s 8.6G OLED line has a capacity of 138,000 substrates a month, of which 18,000 substrates will be dedicated to the production of large-size panels, including 4K, 8K and OLED models.
Its fellow company BOE Technology has invested CNY1 billion (US$144.85 million) to build a platform for the development of large-size inkjet printed OLED panels. Having showcased a 55-inch 8K inkjet printed OLED panel at a product event at the end of 2019, BOE is scheduled to kick off volume production of inkjet printed OLED panels in 2024.
China Star Optoelectronics Technology (CSOT) has set up an experimental line for inkjet printed OLED panels and has also said that production of its second production line at its 11G fab will include large-size OLED panels.
Judging from its product roadmap, CSOT is likely to begin competing with LGD and Samsung Display in the OLED panel segment in 2022-2023.
Taiwan’s panel makers have been more conservative about its deployment in the OLED segment. AU Optronics (AUO) has said that it will continue to advance its inkjet printed OLED technology, having highlighted a 17.3-inch UHD 4K OLED panel with a resolution of 255ppi at Touch Taiwan 2019.―Digitimes