AES Semigas


11 November 2020

Micro-LED chip revenue to reach $2.3bn in 2024

Since the introduction of Sony’s large-sized modular micro-LED display in 2017, other companies, including Samsung and LG, have successively made advances in micro-LED development, in turn generating much buzz for the technology’s potential in the large-sized display market, according to market research firm TrendForce. Emissive micro-LED TVs are expected to arrive on the market between 2021 and 2022. Even so, many technological and cost-related challenges are yet to be solved, meaning that micro-LED TVs will remain ultra-high-end luxury products at least during the technology’s initial stage of commercialization.

TrendForce reckons that micro-LED technology is likely to first enter the market in several applications, including small-sized head-mounted augmented reality (AR) devices, wearables such as smartwatches, high-margin products such as automotive displays, and niche products such as high-end TVs and large-sized commercial displays.

After this initial wave of products, micro-LED technology will subsequently also see gradual integration in mid-sized tablets, notebook computers and desktop monitors.

In particular, micro-LEDs will see the highest potential for growth in the large-sized display market, mainly since these products have a relatively low technological barrier.

Driven primarily by TV and large-sized display integration, micro-LED chip revenue is expected to reach $2.3bn in 2024.

Taiwanese and Korean manufacturers working to overcome technical and cost-related roadblocks

The vast majority of micro-LED TVs and large-sized displays feature a traditional LED architecture of RGB LED chip packages paired with passive matrix (PM) drivers. Not only is PM costly to implement but it is also limited in terms of how far the pixel pitch of the display can be decreased, making micro-LED technology viable for only commercial displays currently.

However, various panel manufacturers and display brands have in recent years developed their own active matrix (AM) solutions, which make use of an active pixel addressing scheme and feature thin-film transistor (TFT) glass backplanes. Furthermore, compared with PM, the IC design for AM is simpler, so AM requires less physical space for routing. All of these advantages make AM the more suitable solution for high-resolution micro-LED TVs.

Korean companies (Samsung/LG), Taiwanese companies (Innolux/AUO) and Chinese companies (Tianma/CSOT) have all now demonstrated their respective AM display applications. Regarding the LED light source, Samsung has partnered with Taiwan-based PlayNitride to create a full-color micro-LED display manufactured using semi-mass-transfer of RGB LED chips. This process differs from the traditional method of LED display manufacturing, which utilizes RGB LED chip packaging technology instead. Conversely, Taiwan-based panel makers AUO and Innolux have pioneered a color-rendering technology that combines blue-light LED chips with quantum dots or LED phosphors.

On the other hand, the cost of micro-LED displays depends on the display resolution and chip size. As users demand higher-resolution displays going forward, micro-LED chip consumption will also skyrocket, forecasts TrendForce. TVs and LED displays in particular will dwarf other applications in micro-LED chip consumption. For example, a 75-inch 4K display requires at least 24 million RGB micro-LED chips for its subpixel array. Therefore, the manufacturing cost, which includes technologies such as semi-mass-transfer, and the material cost of micro-LED chips will remain very high for the time being, it is reckoned.

In light of this, TrendForce believes that technological and cost-related issues will remain the greatest challenge to the market availability of micro-LED TVs and large-sized micro-LED displays. As TVs trend toward large sizes and high resolutions in the future, manufacturers must confront increasing difficulties in micro-LED technologies, including mass transfer, backplanes, drivers, chips and inspection and repair, says TrendForce. Once these technological bottlenecks have been overcome, whether the cost of micro-LED manufacturing will undergo a corresponding, rapid drop will then determine the viability of the micro-LED as a mainstream display technology, the firm concludes.

Tags: microLED




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