The race to develop cost-effective organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays entered a new phase this week with LG Display’s (http://www.lgdisplay.com/) announcement that it would invest $657 million to expand its OLED plant in Paju, South Korea. Slated to open in the first half of 2014, the plant will be capable of producing 26,000 sheets of mother glass per month.
OLED is widely considered to be the successor of liquid crystal display (LCD) technology for use in mobile devices. OLED, which sprays a microscopic layer of colored “inks” on a substrate, is thinner, lighter and consumes less energy than LCD. In addition, OLED can be sprayed onto plastic, enabling flexible, shatter-proof screens.
To date, South Korean competitor Samsung has been the 800 pound gorilla in OLED investment. In spite of their appeal, OLED displays are expensive to make. Unlike LCD, there is no established OLED manufacturing infrastructure and only a few suppliers of materials. Until OLEDs can be mass-produced on a large scale, OLED screens will command a premium price.
“[Active-matrix] OLED TV prices will remain dramatically higher than those of liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs during the next few years because of manufacturing yield issues, combined with inflated material costs due to the small pool of suppliers,” according to Vinita Jakhanwal, director of small/medium and OLED displays at IHS.
“LG’s investment in the new Gen 8.5 fab is likely to help boost capacity for AMOLED TVs," Jakhanwal said.
In part because of pricing, OLED is currently used mainly for handheld devices such as cellphones and smartphones. Both LG and Samsung have been working toward producing bigger screens and each revealed 55 inch OLED TVs at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.