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by: Ken Werner
Hong Kong, May 31, 2012 – At the Nomura Securities Pan Asia Technology Forum in Hong Kong today, Joosoo Lim, Senior Manager, LG Display OLED Technology Strategy Team, tried to assure his audience of securities analysts and institutional investors that the difficulties that have bedeviled his company’s IGZO OLED backplane would be well in hand by the time LG delivers its first 55-inch AMOLED TV sets later this year. Lim’s approach was to plot the improvements made so far and project them forward to indicate that performance would be where it should be by introduction day.
If the above paragraph raises more questions for you than it answers, we are in the same boat. I was in a one-on-one consulting session when Lim delivered his presentation, so I am reporting his comments to you second-hand. Perhaps I should add that in my keynote address yesterday on the status of OLED displays, I conveyed reports that LGD is unhappy with the stability of its oxide backplane. Lim’s comments – as they were reported to me – seem to confirm that. After all, if you are making the case that things will be okay by the time your product hits the market, you are acknowledging that they are not okay now. A friend at Nomura is trying to obtain a copy of Lim’s presentation for me. If he is successful, I will share the details with you.
Jin Jang, Professor, Department of Information Display, Kyung Hee University, a leading researcher on oxide backplanes, said in his presentation this morning that considerable work is being done on polycrystalline oxides. Of course, one attraction of oxide semiconductors is that the carrier mobility of the amorphous state is nearly as high as the mobility of the polycrystalline state. But some of the stability issues of amorphous oxide semiconductors are still with us.
In the Q&A, I asked Jang if he could comment on the reports of LGD being unhappy with its oxide backplane. He answered by saying it is the job of university researchers such as himself to solve the materials issues, not the job of the panel-makers.
Nomura analyst James Kim calculated that it will take about US $2B to convert a Gen 8 LCD line to an oxide AMOLED line, while it will take US $4.5B to build a new AMOLED line. He reported that both LGD and Samsung Display have announced they will convert LCD lines to OLED with oxide backplane when the fabs are fully depreciated in 2013.
Kim noted that Samsung Display’s first Gen 8 AMOLED line (V1) will use LTPS for the backplane, while the subsequent V2 line will use oxide.
Conversations at the Nomura conference confirmed that Samsung was essentially dragged kicking and screaming into making 55-inch AMOLED-TVs commercially available this year, feeling LGD’s aggressive (and perhaps premature) leap to Gen 8 left it no choice. Samsung Display will be making its initial 55-inch panels 2-up on its A2-3 Gen 5.5 line. That’s not an economical way to make TV panels, but the LTPS backplane and RGB front-plant processes are well-known to Samsung and should not present nasty surprises.
There was much more at the Nomura conference, including presentations on cloud computing (exciting and in its infancy), semiconductors (the industry faces difficulties but Samsung and Intel look strong), and Ultrabooks (will ride the new PC replacement cycle to significant success). Incidentally, if you can hold off until next year, wait for Ultrabooks with Intel’s Haswell processor with much better energy efficiency and WiDi. Haswell-powered Ultrabooks should offer 12-hour-plus batter life.