Strong momentum for MicroLED with progress on all fronts. Cost is the biggest challenge, but Apple and Samsung are carving paths toward the consumer.
- Recent events and trends in technology and the competitive landscape
- Die size and cost roadmaps
- In-depth analyses of the microLED TV market: B2B vs. B2C, miniLED direct view LED display vs. microLED TVs
- Display drivers and architectures: TFT, microdrivers and chiplets
- Updated analysis of the microLED manufacturing and equipment emerging ecosystem: requirements, challenges, strategies, competitive landscape
- Technology status: efficiency, transfer, driving, QNED, etc.
- Process flows
- Manufacturing, equipment
- Competitive landscape, key players
- Intellectual property trends
- Supply chain readiness, manufacturing, and equipment ecosystems
- Cost aspects, roadmaps
- MicroLED display applications: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis, roadmap and forecast for TVs, smartphones, wearables, automotive, augmented reality, laptops, tablets, and monitors
- MicroLED display panel and wafer demand forecast
Understand the status of microLED technology:
- Recent progress
- What are the remaining pinch points?
- Cost aspects, roadmaps
Competitive landscape and supply chain:
- Understand the microLED ecosystem: LED makers, equipment providers, panel makers, OEMs: key players, who does what, who works with whom?
- Scenarios for microLED display supply chain: OEMs, display makers, equipment makers, start-ups, and technology providers
- Impact on the display supply chain
Which applications could microLED displays address and when?
- Detailed analyses and roadmaps for major display applications
- Cost analysis
Table of content
Executive Summary 12
Introduction to MicroLEDs 62
Cost Aspects 73
- Cost targets for die, transfer, and repair
- Cost reduction opportunities
MicroDisplays (AR, VR) 85
TV and Information Displays 92
- 2018-2028 TV set volume forecast – size breakdown
- Challenges for large panels (80” and above)
- Laser TV
- Modular LED and microLED displays
- Convergence between TV and direct view LED displays
- LED package and assembly types for narrow and fine pitch displays
- Direct view LED display technology roadmap
- Samsung’s MicroLED developments
- MicroLED die cost for TV
- MicroLED TV panel volume forecast
- Narrow pixel pitch direct view LED display market trends
Laptops, Tablets, and Monitors 155
Epiwafer Forecast 162
Intellectual Property Trends 168
Recent Trends: The Shaping of the microLED Industry Landscape 183
- MicroLED display news
- Funding and start-ups
- New entrants
- Industrial collaborations and partnerships
- Progress toward manufacturing
Competitive Landscape 200
- Major players by technology node
- Overview of large companies and their MicroLED ecosystems
- Samsung and Apple: different supply chain requirements
- Taiwan and China MicroLED ecosystems
Supply Chain 215
- Supply chain requirements and maturity levels
- Supply chain scenarios
Technology and Equipment 223
Front End: Epitaxy and Chip Manufacturing 224
- Example of process flow
- Front end fab requirements for small microLED
- MicroLED and traditional semiconductor convergence
- GaN-on-Si key players and partners
- Front-end equipment suppliers
MicroLED Display Efficiency 240
- MicroLED vs. OLED
- Improving internal efficiency
- Looking for red LED alternatives
- Light extraction and beam shaping
- Backplane losses
- 2021 status
Color Conversion & RGB Chips 251
- Approaches for color displays
- Color conversion benefits & challenges
- Monolithic RGB chips
Transfer & Assembly 263
- Process cycle
Mass Transfer Metrics and Economics 270
- Stamp size
- Where do we stand?
- Display price and revenue generation metrics
- Optimization for large displays
Mass Transfer Processes 277
- Trends in mass transfer technologies
- Stamp vs. Laser? Status as of 2021
- One-step vs. two-step processes
Mass Transfer and Assembly Equipment 293
- Active players: status and collaboration strategies
- Recent trends
- Commercial solutions as of Q2-2021
- Examples of other solutions in development
Yield Management: Inspection, Testing, and Repair 304
- Yield management and repair strategies
- Transfer and action known good die maps
- Inspection, testing, and yield management requirements
- Front-end: epiwafers and chips
- Possible functional test strategies
- Other metrology and testing methods
- Post transfer inspection and testing
- Pixel repair
- Display inspection and calibration, de-mura
Driving and Pixel Architecture 327
- Analog vs. digital and hybrid driving
- Active matrix vs. passive matrix
- Thin film transistors vs. microDriver ICs
- Cost reality check: TFT vs. microDrivers
- Multiplexing and local passive matrix
- IR drop, thermal management
- Pixel chiplets and microsystems
Self-Assembled Nanorod LEDs: QNED 343
- Patents timeline and technology trends
- Nanorod for QNED: Etched vs. seeded
- QNED vs. QD-OLED
- QNED vs. standard microLED
- QNED SWOT and status
Modular Display Tiling 355
- Possible architectures
Monolithic Microdisplays 364
- MicroLED microDisplay manufacturing
Conclusion – What’s Next? 373
Annex I: Recent MicroLED Display Prototypes 380
About Yole Développement 385
A STRONG MOMENTUM: HAS MICROLED REACHED ESCAPE VELOCITY?
The current display industry environment is favorable to microLED: China won the LCD war, and the industry is turning its focus to technologies that deliver differentiation and high margins. Helped by a Covid-driven demand boost, it has swung back to profit and is generating cash to fund new technologies. While the LCD business model needs high-volume commodity products to absorb huge fab costs and make money on premium products, microLED could seed CapEx-light operations focused on serving premium markets.
Apple put microLED on the map when it acquired Luxvue. Display makers were initially skeptical but now believe that, while challenging, microLED displays might be credible contenders in some applications. As a result, money and resources are flowing into microLED, fueling a virtuous circle with faster developments, and improving prospects that are attracting further investments.
LCD or OLED didn’t take off until HVM equipment became available. Equipment makers are now offering microLED-dedicated tools, and, although hindered by a lack of standardization in processes, some are developing one-stop solutions, including transfer, inspection, and repair.
Mass transfer is no longer considered a fundamental roadblock by most players. Many issues remain, but the industry now sees a clearer runway. Commercial tools from ASMPT, Toray, Coherent/3D Micromac using different processes are accelerating development. More are coming from TDK, V-Technology, Besi, Bolite/Contrel, etc.
Samsung and Vuzix (with JB Display) are introducing the first commercial µLED products in 2021. They won’t yet move the needle of the display industry but are positive developments.
APPLE VS. SAMSUNG: EARLY SUPPLY CHAIN MOVES INDICATE DIFFERENT PATHS TO REDUCE COST
Strong momentum does not guarantee success: many technical and supply chain challenges could still derail microLED. Many solutions look great on paper, but real-life process integration in a high-volume manufacturing environment is much more challenging. Cost is the #1 obstacle and is still 20x to 50x too high for consumer products.
The cost of LCD decreased by a factor of 300, from $30k/m2 to $100/m2 in 25 years. However, LCD started from a blank canvas. Cost reduction opportunities lie across the board: materials, equipment, processes, etc. For LCD, the bulk of the decrease was achieved by generation scaling. MicroLED, on the other hand, exists at the intersection of the mature Semiconductor, LED, and Flat Panel Display industries. Few contributors present 300x cost reduction opportunities, but in many cases, µLED hasn’t yet leveraged the technologies and wafer processing equipment that could help deliver significant improvements.
Apple clearly was aware of that: the company is driving its supply chain to a 200 mm wafer to unlock the fantastic efficiency of the mature Semi manufacturing philosophy that has remained untapped by the LED industry. This risky and initially costly bet could pay off, giving the company a unique advantage when it comes to addressing the smartphone market, which requires very small and low-cost yet high-performance chips.
Most other players are, for now, on the opposite path, building knowledge and reducing cost on existing 4” LED fabs while waiting for more clarity for the prospect of microLED. This approach could work for first products (B2B TV, etc.) or small displays but likely will not deliver the small die size and performance required for HVM of consumer TVs or smartphones.
PRODUCT ROADMAPS ARE COMING INTO FOCUS, AND THE SUPPLY CHAIN IS SHAPING UP
Many companies have some pieces of the microLED puzzle, but none has all of them. It is unlikely that any player will fully integrate all elements. Each will remain mostly focused on its core expertise: panel makers will source Chips-on-Wafer or binned, Chips-on-Carrier from LED makers. This leads to more margin stacking.
Collaborations are increasingly falling along nationalist lines: Chinese companies BOE, CSOT, Visionox, Huawei, etc., are collaborating with the major domestic LED makers Sanan, HC-Semitek, Nationstar, etc. At the same time, Taiwan leverages its strong LED, Display, and Semi ecosystem with AUO, Ennostar, and Playnitride increasing collaborations.
Is the trend driven by the COVID crisis what prevents teams from crossing borders? There are no major technology or equipment access restrictions that would prevent fully national supply chains: microLED could become a supply-chain-decoupling poster child.
The traditional, vertically integrated display panel business model requires multi-billion-dollar fabs that few can afford. With microLED, the CapEx is distributed among different industries. This leads to a more complex but potentially more agile supply chain, opening the door to new entrants. If it desires, Apple could ultimately control a fabless µLED display supply chain, independent of traditional panel makers and with multiple suppliers at each critical step.
For most applications, we are struggling to deliver a cost model scenario where microLED is significantly cheaper than OLED, let alone LCD. Strong differentiation is therefore essential. This is easier in segments with no strong incumbents. Adoption in Augmented Reality (AR) will take off from 2023, but AR is still searching for a strong use case for high-volume consumer adoption. Automotive is compelling for microLED, but long design and qualification cycles are pushing initial adoption beyond 2025. If Apple’s current pilot effort succeeds, smartwatch will be the first high-volume consumer application with a product introduction anticipated for 2024. TV and smartphone are more difficult nuts to crack as OLED is a moving target, improving continually in both cost and performance. Samsung’s commitment to TV is encouraging. The first real consumer products could emerge from 2025. Smartphone remains the most challenging application, but Apple’s ambitious microLED technology choices bring new hope. Detailed forecasts of display and epiwafer volumes are presented in the report.
3D Micromac (DE) Aixtron (DE), Applied Materials (US), Aledia (FR), Allos Semiconductor (DE), Advanced Powertch (KR), Aerotrans Tech. (TW), AMEC (CN), Apple (US), AQlaser (KR), ASMPT (SG), AUO (TW), Attolight (CH), BOE (CN), Bolite (TW), CEA-LETI (FR), Charm Engineering (KR), CIOMP (CN), Coherent (US), Comptek (FI), Contrel (TW), Compound Photonics (US), CSOT (CN), Cyberoptics (US), eLux (US), eMagin (US), Enkris (CN), ENNOSTAR (TW), EpiLED (TW), EpiPix (UK), Epistar (TW), Facebook (US), Flex Photonic (CN), Foxconn (TW), Gamma Scientific (US), glō (SE/US), GlobalFoundries (US), Goertek (CN), Google (US), GPM (TW), Hamamatsu (JP), HCP (CN), HC Semitek (CN), Hexagem (SE), HKUST (HK), iBeam (US), Intel (US), Innocise (DE), Innolux (TW), Innovation Semiconductors (US), Instrument Systems (DE), Inziv (IS), ITRI (TW), Jade Bird Display (HK), Jasper Display (TW), KLA/Orbotech, Konka (CN), Kopin (US), Kyocera (JP), LG (KR), Kulicke & Soffa (SG), LC Square (KR), Lextar (TW), Leyard (CN), Lumens (KR), Lumiode (US), Luxnour (US), MICLEDI (BE), Mikro Mesa (TW), Nanosys (US), Nationstar (CN), NCD Tech (KR), Nichia (JP), Nitride Semiconductors (JP), OKI (JP), Optovate (UK), Osram (DE), Ostendo (US), Oxford Instruments (UK), Picosun (FI), PlayNitride (TW), Polar Light (SE), Porotech (UK), Powdec (JP), Radiant Vision Systems (US), Raxium (US), Rohinni (US), Samsung (KR), Sanan (CN), Saphlux (US), Sapien (KR), SelfArray (US), Seoul Semiconductor (KR), Sharp (JP), Shibaura (JB), Sitan Technology (CN), Sony (JP), Soft Epi (KR), Southport (TW), Stratacache (US), Sundiode (US), SUSTech (CN), TDK (JP), Terecircuit (US), Tesoro (US), Tetos (KR), Tianma (CN), Toray Engineering (JP), TSMC (TW), Ultra Display Tech (TW), V-Technology (JP), Veeco (US), VerLASE (US), V-Technology (JP), Viewtrix (TW), Visionox/Vistar (CN), VueReal (CA), Vuzix (US), X Display (US), XTPL (PL) and many more.
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