OLED Finally Hits the Big Screen – Literally

Much of the buzz coming out of this week's Consumer Electronics Show is about televisions: how to capitalize on Internet TV; how to better manage TV content; and even how to talk to your TV.

In terms of manufacturing, the most recent TV revolution was LCD — the display technology first used in phones and computer screens. Now, another technology is beginning to make inroads in the TV market and has the potential to revolutionize TV manufacturing once again.

According to IHS iSuppli, LG Electronics has unveiled a 55-inch TV using organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology. This is a significant breakthrough in terms of manufacturing: To date, OLED has largely been used for small-screen applications like smartphones. OLED has had some yield problems in the past, stemming from materials limitations and performance consistency. If LG has overcome these limitations, the potential for OLED is huge.

It will still be awhile before prices come down, though, IHS iSuppli reports:

    Because of the prohibitively high price of AMOLED televisions compared to sets featuring liquid crystal display (LCD) technology, sales of the new AMOLED sets will be limited in 2012, with global shipments expected to amount to only 34,000 units in 2012, according to the IHS iSuppli Display Materials & Systems service. However, as prices decline, the market will soar during the following years. Global shipments will increase to 321,000 in 2013, and then will surge to 935,000 in 2014 and to 2.1 million in 2015. While these shipments will be tiny compared to the massive LCD TV market, the AMOLED TV space will expand at a robust 155 percent compound annual growth rate from 2010 to 2015, compared to just 7 percent for the LCD TV segment.

I actually think it will take longer. I viewed my first HDTV back in the early 1990s at CES. It was a Panasonic model, and it was remarkable. HDTV was supposed to reach critical mass by 1995, analysts believed, but it was actually closer to 2005 before HDTV became commonplace (meaning affordable ).

OLED technology is compelling for a number of reasons. Because the “LE” stands for “light-emitting,” OLED screens consume a lot less energy than LCDs. If requirements such as the EU's energy-saving products (EUP) mandate continue to spread — and all indications are they will — OLED will gain a competitive advantage. Secondly, OLEDs can be sprayed on to a substrate much in the way ink is used in printer technology. OLEDs can be attached in this manner to flexible substrates, such as plastic. This has the potential for lighter, thinner screens.

LCD makers are currently facing a tough market — display prices have dropped significantly in the past year — and are trying to differentiate their products by developing lighter and thinner displays. IHS iSuppli reported in late December that prices of flat panel TVs in the US reached their lowest point in eight months. There will continue to be size and weight limitations in LCDs because active matrix (AM) LCDs require backlighting and other circuits to activate the crystals. Passive matrix hasn't really caught on and has its own limitations.

Interestingly, Samsung Electronics has been the perceived leader in OLED for awhile. In August of last year, Samsung inked a pact with Universal Display Corp. for OLED production. (See: OLED Technology Gets a Boost in Samsung-Universal Deal.) It will be interesting to see where competition will take the OLED market and whether new players will emerge.

14 comments on “OLED Finally Hits the Big Screen – Literally

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 10, 2012

     I forgot to add this link regarding CES. Please check it out


  2. Taimoor Zubar
    January 11, 2012

    Interesting post, Barbara. I think AMOLED is certainly the leader when it comes to display quality. OLED might be a good choice in saving energy, but would it be as good as AMOLED in terms of crispness and sharpness of the display?

  3. Daniel
    January 11, 2012

    Barbara, what makes OLED significant when compare to the normal LED displays. LED’s normally consumes lesser power, when compare with LCD and durability is also more. I would like to what does the component ‘organic’ stands in OLED.

  4. Eldredge
    January 11, 2012

    @Barbara – I agree with your opinion that the growth of the OLED market will take longer than projected. It seems like these forecasts are often optimistic, and perhaps that is an intentional attempt to excite the marketplace. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 11, 2012

    @Jacob: good questions. The most significant difference is that OLEDs are their own light source–you don't need a backlight or secondary light source. So as a power-saver, OLEDs are ideal. I'm not sure about organic–at least in the sense that we usually use the term–I think it has something to do with the way OLEDs operate rather than the fact they are 'green' or natural. LEDs still require some kind of backlighting, so they draw power, etc.

  6. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 11, 2012

    @taimoor: That is something I don't know at the moment. I haven't actually seen an OLED and AMOLED side by side. My guess is the AMOLED is the better of the two from the resolution perspective.

  7. Himanshugupta
    January 11, 2012

    i am amazed after reading the IHS iSupply report about the market forcast. How do they come up with the number like the expected demand for the upcoming years? They do not have any previous data to compare with for OLED or AMOLED.

    The price of LED display is still high. If OLED/AMOLED technology is realtively simple then why is the price higher than LED? Is it due to the fixed cost incurred during the research or due to some other reason?

  8. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 11, 2012

    Hi Himan: On one hand, manufacturing OLEDs should be easy becuase you can spray the diodes right onto a substrate. But there are still limitations to the materials which makes investing in large-scale OLED manufacturing operations risky. I also don't think there are a lot of companies making  OLED production equipment–unlike LCDs, which are manufactured like semiconductors–there is little demand right now. I'm not sure why LEDs are so expensive. I'll try to find out

  9. jbond
    January 12, 2012

    After hearing about this OLED breakthrough a few days ago, I was excited. This is what my husband has been waiting for. Of course the price is way out of reach at the moment, believed to be around $5000. If LG and Samsung have solved the display issues of the past, this will mean these larger OLED TV's should become affordable in the next few years.

  10. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 12, 2012

    jbond–yes, a 55-inch OLED screen is very impressive. I'm looking forward to seeing more analysis on how this was accomplished. LG sort of came out of the box and leapfrogged (is that a verb?) everyone else size-wise. I hope this stimulates the TV/big screen market–while I am enjoying the low prices we pay for an LCD now, manufacturers are having a rough time.

  11. t.alex
    January 16, 2012

    Barbara, will it hit the small devices as well, like smartphones and tablets? I believe it will.

  12. JADEN
    January 22, 2012

    When comparing OLED technology with either LCD or Plasma display, it produces much larger display with more scalable production process than LCD and Plasma, and it has improved range of colours and brightness compare to LCD and Plasma displays.

  13. Anne
    January 22, 2012

    OLED are effectively light emitting diodes made from semiconducting organic polymers. It's able to operate due to the phenomenon of electroluminescence.  It has an organic dye which consists of exciton states, these consist of an excited electron and a hole or empty state,  When the hole and electron combine a photon is emitted and light is produced.

    One of the significant point when compare OLED with LED is that in colour accuracy. OLED TVs use a much simpler process to create the required colour, resulting in much richer and true clours than LED.


  14. Daniel
    January 23, 2012

    Anne, that’s for the clarification and explanation about working principle about OLED.

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