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[Analyst Column] Encapsulation Technology, Where is it Going?

Yi Choong Hoon Yi, Chief Analysis / UBI Research

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OLED market is heating up again. Rigid OLED market growth was temporarily stalled but with Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics’ new flexible (plastic) OLED products, Galaxy S6 Edge and G Flex 2 respectively, the smart phone market’s temperature is rising. In order to maintain the storm that iPhone brought, Apple is preparing to release smart watch equipped with LG Display’s plastic OLED. Additionally, LG Elec. is targeting the premium TV market with their 55 inch and 65 inch UHD OLED TV.

OLED panel leading company Samsung Display decided on Gen 6 line’s additional investment for flexible OLED production expansion. LG Display also decided on supplemental extension of Gen 4 line in Paju responding to the shortage of plastic OLED supply. Furthermore, JDI is joining in and expected to begin Gen 6 flexible OLED line establishment soon.

Recently announced Samsung Display’s decision to invest in large OLED line is the most encouraging news. Frontline leader in OLED display, Samsung Display mass produced 55 inch OLED panel using RGB OLED and LTPS TFT technology. However, halting the production, Samsung Display explored for technology with better business value and recently selected to produce large OLED panel using WRGB OLED technology.

OLED panel production technology can be largely separated into 3 parts: TFT, OLED, and encapsulation. Large OLED panel production technology is very difficult to obtain yield compared to small panel. Therefore, while the above 3 technologies are important in producing good panel, technology that can acquire good yield for mass production can guarantee business value. Particularly, as encapsulation is the last process, the final yield depends on the encapsulation method.

In that case, what encapsulation technology is most suitable for large area OLED panel production? As OLEDNET article published on January 12 mentions, from the technology trend perspective the answer is hybrid encapsulation technology. This technology is completed with device’s passivation film, moisture proof top plate that can cover the top, and organic material that adhere the top and passivation film. From the design trend perspective, the technology must be able to bend. Recently, the TV market is moving toward curved design, and to respond to rollable display as well the top plate has to be metal rather than glass. (Reference, 2015 OLED Encapsulation Report, UBI Research)

Hybrid encapsulation technology can be further divided into film method and dam & fill method depending on the adhesive structure between top plate and passivation film. Film method is being applied to mass production by LG Display, and dam & fill method was developed led by Sony. This method dispenses adhesive polymer liquid after organic dam installation on the panel border. This can only be used when the top plate is glass. LG Display completes the process by sealing the metal plate laminated with adhesive film to the device. A best suited technology for curved TV and rollable TV production.

The OLED panel for TV production technology decided by Samsung Display was initially known to select WRGB OLED structure similar to LG Display, but TFT and encapsulation technology have not yet been revealed. However, TFT technology is highly likely to be oxide TFT. (Reference February 27 OLEDNET article) LTPS TFT has high investment cost compared to oxide TFT and has low business value at similar performance.

What is left is encapsulation technology. For this technology also a method already commercialized by LG Display, film lamination method, is most suitable since metal plate is favorable for curved design. Metal plates is strong against external shocks and favorable for heat sink. Glass has lower heat conductivity compared to metal and requires additional protection against heat; this means that production cost can only increase. Considering design, protection against external shocks, and reduced heat sink cost, LG Display’s hybrid encapsulation technology that uses metal plate is the most ideal. Therefore, the direction that Samsung Display should also head toward is metal plate and film using method.

Although small OLED for mobile technology developed by Samsung Display became the norm, it is estimated that LG Display’s technology will become standard for large OLED panel production.

The Reason WRGB OLED TV Can Only Succeed

It has already been 2 years since OLED TV entered the market. LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics opened the market together with the release of 55 inch FHD OLED TV, but currently the market is developing around LG Elec. and some Chinese set companies.

 

Samsung Elec.’s OLED TV is using RGB OLED structure similar to the OLED panel applied to Galaxy series, and LTPS TFT. On the other hand, LG Elec. is using WRGB OLED, developed by LG Display, and oxide TFT.

 

However, Samsung Elec. stopped OLED TV production in the second half of 2013, and began to express negative opinions regarding OLED TV industry since CES2014. They determined OLED TV to be underdeveloped and required approximately 3 more years of further work. Also, as 8 mask of LTPS TFT or oxide TFT was used to develop OLED panel for TV, and therefore higher cost compared to LCD, Samsung and many other display experts continued to view it negatively. Various media was filled with unfavorable articles particularly regarding whether LG Display alone could maintain the OLED panel industry which required massive amount of investment.

 

Despite this, WRGB OLED received legitimate recognition with the start of 2015. First, with the 3 stack tandem OLED structure and HDR technology, they were able to provide sharper picture quality than LCD with the peak intensity of up to 800 nit. Second, 8 mask oxide TFT production processes were reduced to 4 mask production and lowered investment cost, which led to a more reasonable panel price.

 

The halved number of masks in the TFT production signifies that the number of processes can be reduced and increase the yield rate. It also means the amount of large scale investment essential to the TFT production can be reduced by 50%.

 

The rival display of LCD mostly uses 4 mask process of a-Si TFT. If the existing Gen8 line, with capacity of 200K, is changed to LTPS TFT or 8 mask oxide TFT process, the capacity is reduced to approx.. 90K and increases the TFT production cost by more than 200%. However, in 4 mask production, the LCD line can be altered to TFT exclusive line for OLED without any loss of capacity; this would place the TFT production cost on the same level as LCD. Of course, as the existing line can be used without additional factory construction will reduce the investment cost even further.

 

Therefore, if OLED is developed using 4 mask oxide TFT technology, theoretically the production cost falls to the level of LCD panel production price excluding BLU. As the large area OLED panel market is in early stages, the OLED evaporator and encapsulation equipment price is still high, but the equipment price will fall rapidly within 2-3 years and the investment cost is also expected to be reduced.

 

The display market research organizations are estimating the large OLED panel price to be at least $3,000, but according to the 2015 Annual Report by UBI Research, the LG Display’s 55 inch FHD OLED panel price is only expected to be around $900, and a 55 inch UHD OLED panel is to be around $1,400. UBI Research analyses that there is some difference from the actual sales price as LG Display’s M2 line production and yield rates are low, but if the full capacity of 26K is reached and the yield rises to above 80%, the current supply price can easily be met. Particularly if the large scale mass production system is established with the addition of M3 and M4 lines, it is predicted that OLED panel price will be reduced so that there will only be 1.1 times difference compared to LCD panel.

 

There are many experts who mistakenly predict that large area OLED panel, which has higher price tag compared to the continued investment cost as it is still in early stages, will fall behind LCD’s cheaper price strategy. However, much like how TFT-LCD overwhelmed the Braun-tube market, OLED TV will also be a household item within a few years.

 

2015 Annual Report by UBI Research writes that in 2016 when M2 line will be operating normally, approx. 1.7 million units of UHD OLED panel production will be possible, and predicts the investment of M3 line in 2016, with the shipment of approx. 2.7 million units of OLED TV in the market in 2017. This is a much weaker figure compared to the almost 200 million units of LCD panel market for TV, but within the new UHD TV market with 55 inch or higher it is expected to hold a large market share.

 

150227_WRGB OLED TV가 성공할 수 밖에 없는 이유<LG Elec. OLED TV, CES2015>

LCD, Busy Playing Catching Up to OLED…

Following smart phone, other devices equipped with display such as tablet PC, monitor, and TV are mostly using OLED panel. In turn, LCD is attempting to replicate key points of OLED panel to catch up.
The first is LTPS TFT technology. When Samsung Display started producing AMOLED using LTPS TFT, it was overlooked by the LCD sector as it financially needed twice the amount of investment compared to a-Si TFT technology and therefore thought it to have no business value. However, as the smart phone resolution is getting higher, LCD companies are also employing LTPS TFT that has high mobility.
The second is the ultra slim thickness of OLED panel that does not have BLU. To answer the smart phone’s need for a thin body with light weight, LCD is thinning the panel by slimming the glass substrate further and further. Nowadays, even TV sector of LCD is busy trying to become thinner. In CES2015, Sony exhibited ultra slim LCD TV with thickness of approximately 4.9mm.

150225_LCD, OLED 따라 가기 정말 바쁘다~~~ <CES2015, Sony Floating Style 65” UHD LCD TV>

The third is curved design. LG Elec. and Samsung Elec. exhibited curved OLED TV using thinness of OLED panel in CES2013. With the products on the market, LCD TV also reduced thickness and began selling curved LCD TV.

150225_LCD, OLED 따라 가기 정말 바쁘다~~~1<CES2015, Hisense Curved LCD TV>

Hisense, a Chinese brand, exhibited LCD TV with curved design in CES2015. Samsung Elec. decided that the main product of 2015, SUHD LCD TV, will have curved design, as well as releasing a curved LCD monitor. However, despite reducing the thickness LCD cannot yet be applied to smart phones.

The fourth is color reproductivity rate. The existing LCD TV can only produce approximately 80% of NTSC standard, which is limited compared to 110% of OLED. LCD sector criticized OLED’s color reproduction to be excessive; however, they recently developed new technology of applying quantum dot materials onto BLU and launched the sales of LCD TV with almost 120% of NTSC. Furthermore, it is deceiving the public by calling the QD BLU LCD TV as Quantum Dot TV packaged as a non-LCD TV.

150225_LCD, OLED 따라 가기 정말 바쁘다~~~2<CES2015, TCL QD BLU LCD TV>

The fifth is contrast ratio. OLED TV’s contrast ratio is close to infinite with 1,000,000:1. Compared to this, LCD TV’s contrast ratio was 1,000:1, and unable to showcase dark scenes. Recently, HDR (high dynamic range) technology that brightens bright scenes and darkens dark scenes is strengthening its contrast ratio. Sony is striving to achieve high contrast ratio for LCD TV, similar to OLED TV, and exhibited HDR technology applied BRAVIA in CES2015.

150225_LCD, OLED 따라 가기 정말 바쁘다~~~3<CES2015, Sony HDR applied LCD TV>

Many key points of OLED such as previously mentioned thickness, contrast ratio, and curvature ratio still need to be improved by LCD panel, and diverse attempts are continually being made to catch up to OLED panel that is entering the market with great strength. However, LCD cannot yet even attempt to match OLED on high speed response time that is needed for programs with fast action such as sports.

OLED holds diversity in color definition and design, and even if LCD keeps on reaching for these characteristics, LCD will remain LCD and will not be able to overtake OLED.

[Analyst Column] 2015 Samsung Electronics TV Marketing Strategy Analysis: Samsung is a genius of global marketing as expected

The product cited to pay close attention at this CES2015 was QD-BLU LCD TV. Exhibiting QD-BLU LCD TV at IFA 2014, the Chinese set makers already made it clear that it will be a new product to lead the Chinese market in 2015. The Chinese companies released 4K TV in the market for 2013 and it took about 60% of the world TV market in 2014.

150115_2015년 삼성전자 TV 마케팅 전략 분석

Source: CES2015 Pre-press Conference

Mr. Koenig, the Industry Analysis Director of CEA, forecasted at CES 2015 pre-press event that the 57% of the market which is 13 million units will be in China by 2015.

Based on the domestic markets, the Chinese set companies are moving fast to secure the names implying the term QD and prepare PR and marketing strategies in order to lead the QD-BLU LCD TV market.

Succeeded in distinguishing itself from other competing companies, let alone the best TV quality in the world, Samsung Electronics took first place in the TV market share and developed the name LED TV to more strongly appeal its difference with LCD TV to potential customers. Though it is not a TV operating with LED but only the CCFL for backlight was replaced with LED, it is analyzed that this naming strategy enabled securing its competitiveness for achieving differentiation.

The Chinese set companies developed numerous TV names with the term QD imitating the successful examples of Samsung Electronics.

However, Samsung Electronics outmaneuvered the Chinese set companies again with another surprising marketing strategy. It adorned the CES 2015 press conference with the unexpected name of SUHD TV. It is because the name LED TV had a market monopolizing effect for Samsung used it exclusively for more than a year but the name QD shared with other competing companies of lesser-known brands will lower Samsung’s value as an absolute TV brand.

150115_2015년 삼성전자 TV 마케팅 전략 분석_2

It seemed Samsung Electronics is emphasizing the notion of curved TV as a marketing factor to distinguish itself from other rival companies. The QD technology is a means to compete with OLED TV in terms of picture quality and it is analyzed that the curved TV is a key marketing strategy which already has secured the brand awareness as the world’s best design product in the curved TV market.

Yi Chung-hoon /Chief Analyst / UBI Research / ubiyi@ubiresearch.co.kr

 

LG Display forecasts blooming of OLED TV market in 2015

OLED TV market is expected to begin flourishing from the end of 2015.

At the presentation of LG Display’s performance in Q2 held on 23rd at LG Twin-Tower, Yeouido, an executive director of strategic marketing group of LG Display (LGD), Youngkwon Song, emphasized, “LGD is putting efforts to realize the economy of scale and to cut cost including lowering material cost regarding the OLED TV business” and “a significant condition will be developed by the end of 2015 and early 2016.”

Mr. Don Kim, the CFO and a senior vice president of LGD said that “from our point of view on the OLED, the current levels of expected performance and yield rate are at satisfaible level, but innovation in pricing is what we concentrate more” and “by the end of 2015 or early 2016, when the operation is in full capa., we can reach the economy of scale and bring a significant performance.” Mr. Kim also hinted a soon-to-be bloomed of LGD’s OLED TV market.

LGD started supplying panels for the OLED TV to major Chinese TV set makers and plans to operate M2 line for mass-production in this third quarter. It also continuously leads the OLED market with scheduled launch of 55”/65”/77” curved UHD OLED TV.

In the meantime, sales for Q2 in 2014 was 5.979 trillion won which is declined by 9% from the Q2 in 2013 but increased by 7% from the Q1 in 2014. And operating profit was recorded surplus consecutively for nine quarters at 163.1 billion won.

LG Electronics’ 77” Curved OLED TV for£20,000

LG Electronics’ 77” UHD curved OLED TV displayed at CES 2014 attracted attention of many foreign visitors. According to a Chinese medium, Shanghai Hotline, LG Electronics (LGE) officially launched the 77” UHD curved OLED TV, for £20,000 (about 34.6 million Kwon) in the British market. Official from LGE says, however, we are just planning to sales 77” UHD curved OLED TV.

With 4K UHD resolution (3840×2160), the 77” OLED TV offers a high picture quality, providing close to nature images, and comfortable viewing experience. Its unique design of curved screen and ellipse shape stand also allows you to enjoy high-contrast colorful pictures from any angle. This 77” UHD OLED TV won ‘Best of Innovations” award at CES 2014, and moves 7.5cm to bend so it moves 8cm to bend from flat and its angle is also adjustable.

LGE plans to launch 65” UHD curved OLED TV for £6,000 (about 10.3 million Kwon) with the same features as the 77” TV in this October.140704_LGCES201477inchamoled

 

<LG Electronics’ 77” UHD flexible OLED TV at CES 2014>

LG Display’s winning move, OLED TV Price

140627_LG D Workshop

 

LG Display (LGD) actively competes in TV market by reducing OLED TV price.

A department head Byeonggyu Roh of LGD emphasized “cost reduction of LGD’s OLED panel should be carried out across all processes and continued” and introduced its cost reduction strategy for the OLED panel for the 2nd Annual OLED Workshop held on 24th.

Key cost reduction strategy includes various ways such as investment cost reduction by rearranging the existing lines and modifying equipment; material cost reduction by optimizing the thickness of layers for TFT, the OLED and encapsulation; tact time improvement; and production efficiency increase by investing in M2 line. Also it was expected that soluble process will be the core technology for cost reduction in the future.

CEO of UBI Research, Choong Hoon Yi, said “LGD’s ultimate goal is to reduce the price by 1.1 times compare to LCD” and announced “cost down can be realized through reducing investment cost as 65” UHD OLED TV displayed at SID 2014 applied the existing co-planar to reduce from the previous 6mask to 4mask.”

LGD recently began supplying the OLED TV panel to China, and it plans to operate the M2 line in the latter half of this year. It also dropped the price of a 55” FHD curved OLED TV to $3,999 from the released price of $15,000 and a price war with the LCD TV is about to begin.