Are OTFTs ready to disrupt the display industry and enable fully-flexible devices?
ORGANIC TFTs ARE ENTERING THE FAB BY THE BACK DOOR
When trying to build a flexible display panel, the Thin Film Transistor (TFT) matrix is one of the most challenging and fragile functional layers.
Interest in OTFT emerged in the mid-2000s when mobility reached values similar to amorphous silicon (a-Si), the dominant display backplane technology. This triggered a flurry of activity at leading display manufacturers, and prototypes rapidly emerged. Besides fast-improving electrical performance, OTFT’s intrinsic flexibility made the technology ideal for the realization of flexible displays. In 2007, the first ever flexible AMOLED panel was demonstrated by Sony and featured an organic TFT.
However, interest waned as performance and homogeneity issues persisted, and other TFT technologies like LTPS and metal oxide emerged.
Nevertheless, organic semiconductor companies kept perfecting their molecules and ink formulations, gaining a better understanding of the interaction between the materials, the transistor structure, and the manufacturing process. Consequently, performance in the lab improved by another order of magnitude. Combined with the explosive growth of flexible displays and the promise of a cost-efficient, solution-based manufacturing process, interest in OTFT has renewed.
Panel makers remain cautious, but a handful in Taiwan and China are currently attempting to retrofit older Gen 2.5 - 4.5 fabs with OTFT. These first attempts to move OTFT into mass production will be critical for the technology’s future. Failure in these initial industrialization attempts could be fatal for the OTFT industry, or, at the very least, set it back many years. However, if OTFT proves that it can be mass produced and enables panel makers to revive those obsolete fabs with high-margin flexible displays, there are no fundamental barriers prohibiting the technology from being quickly scaled up to fabs Gen 8 or above, and possibly challenge the vast market for traditional a-Si based panels like LCD TV, monitors, etc. In the long-term, because they are inherently solution-processable, OTFTs are also an ideal backplane candidate for additive manufacturing and fully printed displays.
This report presents a detailed review of flexible displays, including an analysis of technical challenges (frontplane, backplane, substrates), manufacturing status, key players, and technologies.
This report also provides a complete review of established TFT backplane technologies.
ORGANIC SEMICONDUCTOR (OSC) SUPPLIERS HAVE MORPHED INTO FULL SOLUTION PROVIDERS
The display panel industry tends to require high capex in order to generate fairly low margins. Companies are therefore relatively conservative when it comes to switching to new TFT. They look for technologies that:
• Are highly compatible with existing process and equipment.
• Generate higher margins than the incumbent technology by allowing higher added-value products (OLED, flexible displays) and/or reduced manufacturing costs.
Organic semiconductor suppliers have realized that success means offering turnkey solutions comprising the full material stack, and processes as compatible as possible with old a-Si equipment. This means photo-patternable, cross-linkable materials that can be processed with existing broadband lithography tools already present in the fab, and which can withstand traditional patterning and etching techniques.
In the short-term, this puts significant stress on companies that started as small teams of organic materials experts. These companies now must access additional capital and set up partnerships in order to access fab equipment and develop a full process toolbox.
However, in the long-term this will permit surviving companies to capture more added-value than by simply supplying the channel material.
This report presents a detailed analysis of OTFT, including benefits, challenges, performance status, and roadmaps. Additionally, this report provides an analysis of OTFT manufacturing (technologies, structure, etc.), cost of ownership, and competitive landscape (i.e. supply chain, OSC suppliers). Company profiles for key players are also included.
ORGANIC TFTs ARE SEARCHING FOR THEIR FIRST KILLER APPLICATION
OTFT mobility in the lab now exceeds 10 cm2/vs, with record values up to 40 cm2/vs, theoretically good enough to drive all display types and compete with all TFT technologies. But while these results are a good indication of the progress made with organic semiconductors, they have been obtained in conditions far from practical in actual fabs and commercial devices. Current realistic fab-level performance stands in the range of 1 - 2 cm2/vs, with a credible path toward 3 - 5 cm2/vs over the next 18 months - 3 years, and possibly 10 cm2/vs and above within 5 - 10 years.
At the current level, OTFTs are already superior to the dominant a-Si platform and enable a whole new range of very cost-effective, flexible electrophoretic and LCD displays with a bending radius as low as 30 mm. Not exactly “foldable”, but flexible enough to conform to curved surfaces in all application types, such as embedded displays in automotive, consumer appliances, and digital signage. These displays also feature reduced weight and thickness and improved ruggedness from their plastic-based construction. The aforementioned applications could become a stepping stone for OTFT, allowing panel makers to validate and optimize the technology in their Gen 2.5 - 4.5 fabs and prepare to scale up to larger substrates while material suppliers fine-tune their molecules to reach performance sufficient to drive mid-pixel density OLEDs. This would unlock a whole new range of applications by enabling cost-effective manufacturing of low power consumption, fully flexible displays for wearable and mobile applications. From there, it remains to be seen if performance will further improve in order to serve the high-end OLED market, or if OTFT can deliver on its cost-effectiveness promises. If so, OTFT could become a credible alternative to a-Si in the manufacture of large LCD panels, enabling higher resolution and higher brightness - features that are critical to the UHD TV market’s emergence.
This report focuses on OTFT display applications and the associated market volume for the period 2016 – 2022, broken down in 13 segments. Moreover, this report provides an analysis of market volume and revenue for organic semiconductors (OSC) and gate insulators (i.e.: OGI). Our forecasts have been developed on the basis of different scenarios, taking into account potential future technology breakthroughs (i.e. printing process, vertical transistors).
Objectives of the Report
This report provides a full analysis of the status and prospects for organic thin film transistors (OTFT) for displays and other applications:
- Main challenges for producing flexible displays
- TFT backplanes: technology review, capacity analysis, potential for flexible displays
- OTFTs: technology roadmap, SWOT analysis, manufacturing challenges, OTFT in the fab
- Application: pros and cons of OTFT for each segment, application roadmap, penetration forecast
- 2017 - 2022 forecast: total OTFT surface (m2), channel and gate dielectric volumes (kg) and revenue (US$M), ASP forecast