Samsung Confirms AMOLED Roll-out

March 23rd, 2006

The projections for the huge market growth of OLED displays beginning in 2007 are staggering, and depend on the roll-out of active-matrix OLEDs (AMOLEDs) as the main display in lots and lots of cell phones.

Ken Werner
Senior Analyst and Editor
of HDTV Retailer

Now, Lee Woo-Jong, vice president of Samsung SDI’s Mobile Display Business, has announced that the first manufacturing line of his company’s $450M AMOLED plant in Cheonan is scheduled to start producing displays by the end of the year with ramp-up in January ‘ 07, which is generally consistent with previous estimates. An EE Times story quotes Lee as saying that the plant will produce the equivalent of 20M 2- to 2.6-inch displays annually. The target application is "digital multimedia broadcasting-enabled phones."

"Initially, we will target the mobile TV phone market and then expand the territory to the 40-inch-level television market in two or three years," said Lee. "We plan to increase the annual AMOLED production capacity to 100M units by 2008 to meet an expected strong demand for higher-resolution displays for mobile TV phones. We have already been negotiating with several global mobile TV phone makers on design-in issues." Although Lee did not identify any potential customers, it is well known in the industry that Samsung Electronics will be a major customer. The AMOLEDs will compete with active-matrix TFTs in this premium end of the cell-phone market.

Samsung SDI will be making its AMOLEDs on a Gen 4 line, and claims its displays will be the first to use thin-film transistors made from low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS). Although this could be true for AMOLED displays intended for cell phones, Toshiba announced a 3.5-inch AMOLED using LTPS last October at FPD International.

Samsung SDI is known to be working with Universal Display Corp. (Ewing, NJ;, whose phosphorescent small-molecule OLED materials permitted Samsung to build the first cell-phone AMOLED prototype that consumed less power than an equivalent TFT-LCD.

An editorial note: Lee’s stated intention to "expand the [OLED] territory to the 40-inch level television market in two or three years" should be approached with caution. We believe the company’s cell-phone display production will use the proven vacuum thermal evaporation process for depositing the OLED materials. While this is a reasonable initial approach for small displays fabricated on substrates no larger than Gen 4, it would not be suitable for the larger fab generations required to produce large TV panels economically. Furthermore, the larges LTPS deposition equipment in the world is currently Gen 4.

This means that TV-size AMOLED panels will require fundamentally different OLED deposition and backplane fabrication processes than the initial phone-panel product - or Samsung would have to undertake a major, expensive and time-consuming scale-up of LTPS processing. These considerations make volume production of 40-inch panels unlikely in a two- to three-year time frame, although RGB AMOLED prototypes in such sizes are a definite possibility. (Samsung has been showing a "color-by-white" 40-inch OLED demonstrator on the show circuit for some time, but acknowledges that this approach represents a technological dead end for large displays - in part because of its poor luminous efficiency.)