MicroLED equipment and manufacturing infrastructure: a cornerstone for microLED and a key strategic lever for Apple and Samsung to disrupt the industry.
- Analysis of the microLED manufacturing and equipment emerging ecosystem: requirement, challenges, strategies, competitive landscape
- Technology status and trends: QNED self-assembly and color-converted nanorod microLEDs, microLED display module tiling, including challenges, electrical interconnects and major technologies
- Updated microLED adoption roadmaps and volume forecasts for displays and epiwafers
- Updated intellectual property trends
- Recent events and trends in technology and the competitive landscape
Key features of the report
- MicroLED technology status
- Competitive landscape and key player profiles
- Intellectual property trends
- Supply chain readiness, manufacturing and equipment ecosystems
- MicroLED yield management and repair strategy analysis
- Cost analysis: TV, smartwatch and smartphones
- MicroLED display applications: Strength, weakness opportunity and threat (SWOT) analysis, roadmap and forecast for TVs, smartphones, wearables, automotive, augmented reality, laptops, tablets and monitors
- MicroLED display panel and wafer demand forecast
Objectives of the report
Understand the status of microLED technologies:
- Recent progress
- What are the remaining pinch points?
Which applications could microLED display address and when?
- Detailed analysis and roadmaps for major display applications
- Cost analysis
Competitive landscape and supply chain:
- Identify the key players and IP owners in technology development and manufacturing. Who’s taking the lead? Key partnerships
- Scenario for a microLED display supply chain: OEMs, display makers, equipment makers, startups and technology providers
- Impact on the display supply chain
TABLE OF CONTENT
Executive summary 11
Introduction to microLED displays 54
Cost aspects 66
- Cost target for die, transfer and repair
- Cost down opportunities
- MicroLED attributes vs. Application requirements
- MicroLED SWOT by application
- Key drivers and roadblocks for adoption
- MicroLED application roadmap
- Tablets, laptops, monitors
- Epiwafer forecast
- Risk and other scenarios
Recent trends 130
- MicroLED displays news
- Recent prototypes
- How much money spent on microLED?
- Major 2020 deals
- New entrants
- Progress toward manufacturing
- Commercialization status
Intellectual property trends 142
- General dynamic
- Competitive landscape
- Technology trends
Supply chain 156
- Supply chain requirements and maturity level
- Supply chain scenario
Competitive landscape 163
- Major players by technology node (non exhaustive)
- Industrial collaborations and partnerships
- Overview of large companies and their microLED ecosystems
MicroLED manufacturing equipment 180
- MicroLED process and equipment requirements overview
- Front-end: LED epitaxy
- Front-end: chip fabrication
- Front-end: etching and passivation
- Inspection, testing and repair
Technology trends 246
- MicroLED displays efficiency
- Transfer and assembly
- Color conversion
- Yield management
- Modular displays (tiling)
- Monolithic microdisplays
Yole Group of companies 361
NOT JUST A NEW DISPLAY TECHNOLOGY: AN OPPORTUNITY TO DISRUPT THE SUPPLY CHAIN
For many companies, interest in microLEDs lies beyond just the ability to offer the latest display technology. Intellectual property analyses indicate that Apple is planning to forgo thin film transistor (TFT) backplanes, instead opting for Si-CMOS microdrivers. The implications go far beyond a technological choice. Apple’s microLED supply chain would eliminate reliance on display makers such as Samsung or LG. Apple can source microdrivers and microLED chips from foundry partners and assemble those components in-house or with other partners to create unique displays. Although it currently has more pressing battles to fight, the same logic applies to Huawei, with the possible added benefits of a 100% domestic display supply chain that doesn’t rely on restricted US technology.
For Samsung Visual Display (SVD), Samsung’s TV division, microLED confers the ability for it to compete against OLED in the high end, large, TV segment with a technology that doesn’t rely on panels from China or its friendly enemy Samsung Display (SDC). SVD’s microLED technology still uses low temperature polysilicon (LTPS) TFTs but, thanks to its modular design, only requires smartphone-sized tiles that could be sourced from existing G6 fabs.
Other display makers such as BOE or CSOT want to leverage their existing TFT infrastructure. Samsung Display is developing QNEDs, its own flavor of microLEDs that could fast track the technology and leverage most of its QD-OLED investments.
For AUO, microLED could be a matter of survival. The company has been successfully managing cash by limiting capital expenditure (CapEx) and focusing on high added value products. But China won the LCD war and the company never invested in OLED capacity, making it difficult to pursue this strategy in the long term. MicroLED is AUO’s best shot at remaining relevant in high-end automotive and TV panels, without requiring the massive CapEx of an OLED fab. The company has already showed various automotive prototypes and could demo TV prototypes in 2021.
EQUIPMENT AND MANUFACTURING INFRASTRUCTURE: MAJOR BOTTLENECKS AND STRATEGIC PLAYS
Availability of standard tools and processes enabled the commoditization of LCD, and will soon do so for flexible red/green/blue (RGB) OLEDs. The lack of microLED process maturity and the proliferation of technology paths hinders the development of high volume manufacturing tools and the development of the supply chain. This complexity, however, is a welcome barrier to entry for companies such as Apple or Samsung. Both have the financial and technological strength to develop end-to-end solutions internally and acquire missing technology building blocks as needed.
Latecomers or smaller companies are eager to see microLED processes converge and off-the shelf tools become available. Equipment makers such as Toray Engineering, ASMPT, TDK, V-Technology, Besi, SET and others are making the first attempts while technology providers such as Playnitride, XDC and many others can license key processes and components.
For high volume consumer applications, economics drive die sizes to below 5 µm with stringent yields requirement for which traditional LED fabs are not suited. A paradigm shift is required toward a semiconductor-like manufacturing mindset with high efficiency, automation, end-to-end defect prevention and management strategies.
This is creating an additional push toward adoption of larger diameter substrates. Going from 6” to 8” is especially desirable as it grants access to battle-tested, retrofitted semiconductor equipment. This also increases the appeal for GaN-On-Si platforms that are readily available in 8” and already looking toward 12”. While more challenging, 8” sapphire and GaAs platforms however remain credible options.
MICROLED ADOPTION: KEY PLAYERS AND INFLEXION POINTS VARY FROM ONE APPLICATION TO ANOTHER
OLED is the incumbent technology to beat. MicroLEDs’ cost must decrease by at least an order of magnitude to compete in the high end segments. This is daunting but the report shows that there are challenging, yet credible, paths toward this goal. It is difficult however to produce a realistic scenario under which microLED becomes cheaper than OLED. This raises the question: can microLED strongly differentiate from OLED? Also, how much price elasticity should we expect?
There are very strong cases for microLED in automotive and augmented reality, with, for the latter, the benefit of an easier-to-set-up supply chain. For smartphones and smartwatches, OLED is hard to beat in both performance and cost. Success will require taking advantage of microLEDs’ unique features and ability to integrate full display sensors on the front plane to deliver not only stunning performance, but functionalities that no other display technologies can. Patents from Apple hint at depth, fingerprint, touch, force and biometric sensors, or imaging systems such as camera and iris or retina scan. Smartwatch is a stepping stone and smartphones, although still uncertain and years away, are the end game.
For TVs, differentiation lies in the ability to assemble arbitrarily large displays from smaller, smartphone-size modules. While compelling, the report shows that it is not easy to deliver pleasant off-state appearance and completely eliminate visible seams between tiles.
Each application has its own inflexion point and, initially, its own supply chain enabled by a champion. Apple will lead on smartwatches and Samsung on TVs which, as manufacturing and technologies improve, will evolve smoothly from luxury, products in excess of $100,000 towards high-end consumer devices. Apple has some unique challenges though. It’s aiming at high volume consumer products that come under a high degree of scrutiny. From day one, everything must be perfect at every level of the supply chain, which must also be ready to produce high volumes from the day on which the switch is flipped. But there is no rush for Apple: as much as the technology itself, it is the supply chain disruption that could motivate the company.
Aixtron, Applied Materials, Aledia, Allos Semiconductor, AMEC, Apple, ASMPT, AUO, Attolight, BOE, Beneq, CEA-LETI, CEC Panda, Charm Engineering, CIOMP, Columbia University, Compound Photonics, Cooledge, CSOT, Cyberoptics, eLux, eMagin, Ennostar, Epiled, Epipix, Epistar, Facebook, Finetech, Foxconn, Gamma Scientific, glō, GlobalFoundries, Goertek, Google, GPM, HC Semitek, HKUST, iBeam, Intel, Innocise, Innolux, Instrument Systems, Inziv, ITRI, Jade Bird Display, Jasper Display, Kansas State University, KIMM, KLA Tencor, Konka, Kookmin U, Kopin, Kyocera, LG, Kulicke & Soffa, LC Square, Lextar, Lumens, Lumiode, LuxVue, MicLEDI, Mikro Mesa, Mojo Vision, Nanosys, NCTU, Nichia, Nuflare, Nth Degree, Oculus, Optovate, Orbotech, Osram, Ostendo, Oxford Instruments, Picosun, PlayNitride, Plessey, PSI Co, Radiant Vision Systems, Raxium, Rohinni, Samsung, Sanan, Sapien, SelfArray, Smart Equipment Technology, Seoul Semiconductor, Sharp, Sitan Technology, Sony, SPTS, Strathclyde University, SUSTech, Sun Yat-sen University, Sxaymiq Technologies, TDK, Terecircuit, Tesoro, Tetos, Texas Tech, Tianma, Topcon, Toray Engineering, TowerJaz, TSMC, Tyndall National Institute, Ultra Display Tech, Uniqarta, U. Of Hong Kong, U. of Illinois, V-Technology, Veeco, VerLASE, V-Technology, Viewtrix, Visionox, VueReal, Vuzix, Xdisplay, and more.
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