IMID by the Numbers

EXCO waits for IMID 2014 to begin. (Photo: Ken Werner)

Technology – The Korean Information Display Society’s International Meeting on Information Display (IMID) has been held each year since 2001, mostly in Daegu, South Korea — a large commercial city known, a tour guide said, for apples, beautiful women and being the place where Samsung got its start. The venue this year, as it has been most of those 14 years, was Daegu’s EXCO; the conference dates, August 26-29.

Although the organizers emphasize IMID’s international character, its location in the world’s leading display-making country gives the conference a flavor as distinctly Korean as kim-chi. That’s a large plus for attendees, both Koreans and foreigners, who are able to see what the people who work for the world’s two largest display-makers are being paid to do.

EXCO waits for IMID 2014 to begin. (Photo: Ken Werner)

But you do have to know how to look if you want to see. Most of the technical papers at IMID are, well, technical. They are, to a great extent, deep and narrow investigations of a particular issue – device materials, device physics, or device design. If your pulse does not race at the thought of how tweaking the length of an oxide thin-film-transistor’s gate improves its long-term stability, you might face IMID with some trepidation (even though you know that TFT stability and yield improvement are essential to reducing the cost of OLED TV sets).

But don’t give up yet. Instead of looking at the technical trees, let’s look at the forest. Specifically, of the 62 regular technical sessions, nine were on oxide TFTs, six were on OLED materials and devices, five were on some aspect of stereoscopic displays, and three were on flexible and stretchable electronics. You might think it would be too simple to conclude that Samsung Display Company and LG Display are seriously interested in flexible OLED displays with oxide-TFT backplanes, that conclusion wouldn’t be far off. (They are also interested in flexible LCDs.)

Samsung, king of the smartphone-sized AMOLED display, has now extended its range to tablets, but the company is now taking a wait-and-see approach to AMOLED panels for television. At SID Display Week late last May, Changho Oh (SVP for LG Display’s OLED TV Development Division 1) told me LGD’s Fab 1 was producing panels for LG’s 55-inch OLED TV at a 70-80% yield. (Yield for other sizes may differ.) This is an impressive (and critical) improvement over last year’s 10% and this past January’s 50%. Oh told me that most of the yield problems and improvements were in the oxide TFT backplane, so you can see that the hard-won knowledge represented in those IMID papers on improving the reliability and stability of oxide TFTs really is reflected in the display quality and price of the products you buy.

LGD will be offering new 55-, 65-, and 77-inch curved OLED TV models this year, and all new models for 2014 will be curved, although some hold-over models will be flat. Curved matters.

Samsung and LGD have both produced flexible displays, although the products that contain those displays maybe flex only slightly or not at all. More flexible displays will appear in products this year and IMID papers showed designs that are reliable after thousands of flexes at curvatures as small as 5mm radius. I now believe that flexible products, as well as flexible displays, are closer than I once thought.

You can learn a lot by looking at IMID by the numbers. – Ken Werner