Large thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT LCD) panel makers are planning to reduce production of comparatively smaller sized 32-, 40-, and 43-inch panels, helping to stabilize panel prices in the third quarter of 2018. In the longer term, however, the oversupply issue still remains, eventually causing older TFT LCD fabs to be restructured, according to IHS Markit. Currently planned new factories will increase large display panel production capacity by 31 percent or 77.7 million square meters from 2018 to 2021. However, based on the current demand forecast, there will be about 49 million square meters of capacity in the pipeline more than the market requires in 2021. The supply/demand glut is expected to continue to increase from 12 percent in 2018 to 23 percent in 2021, remaining well above 10 percent or what is modeled to be a balanced market.
Between 2019 and 2021, there will be a great amount of LCD TV panel capacity built, mainly from generation Gen10.5/11 factories in China. Some panel makers may be forced to reduce utilization rates, while some planned capacity may never be built. Furthermore, in the next few years, legacy factory restructuring will likely accelerate. For the TFT LCD industry to return to a balanced supply/demand level, multiple Gen 5, Gen 6, and even Gen 8 factories will likely need to be shut down. For example, shutting down half of all Gen 5 and Gen 6 amorphous silicon (a-Si) capacity in Taiwan would remove about 18 million square meters of production capacity. Larger glass substrate capacity, such as Gen 8, will also likely need to be closed to bring the market back toward balance. Possible restructuring of legacy factories may include fab shutdown, facility consolidation, or conversion to other technologies, such as active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) panels, e-paper backplanes, and sensors.
Fab restructuring can be attributed to multiple reasons, such as no longer competitive, old equipment, shifts in panel makers’ business focus, excessive overhead from under-utilized facilities, and pressure on profitability. Oversupply is not the end of the crystal cycle. The industry has a long history of dynamically adjusting itself to balance supply and demand. The process may create many challenges for supply chain companies. However, the delayed expansion of new factories, the restructuring of legacy fabs, and the potential for faster demand growth spurred by lower panel prices will help the LCD industry to eventually return to equilibrium.