OLED Technology Gets a Boost in Samsung-Universal Deal

Organic light emitting diode (OLED) display technology got a boost today as leading display manufacturer Samsung Mobile Display Co. Ltd. licensed OLED technology from Universal Display Corp. Universal is an early researcher and developer of OLED technology and materials.

The companies have already worked together for more than a decade, and today's agreement will accelerate the development and production of OLED displays. OLED has a number of advantages over LCDs for display technology: OLEDs create their own light; use less energy; are extremely thin; and can be built on flexible substrates such as plastic. They also don't fade in direct sunlight, as LCDs do, and retain their clarity when viewed from any angle. According to a joint press release from the companies:

    The agreements announced today are an OLED Patent License Agreement and a Supplemental OLED Material Purchase Agreement. Under the license agreement, Universal Display has granted SMD license rights under various patents owned or controlled by Universal Display to manufacture and sell certain phosphorescent OLED display products. In consideration of the license grant, SMD has agreed to pay Universal Display a license fee over the term of the license agreement.

    Under the supplemental agreement, SMD has agreed to purchase and Universal Display has agreed to supply a minimum amount of phosphorescent OLED material for SMD’s use in the manufacture of licensed products, subject to Universal Display being able to supply sufficient quantities to meet SMD’s requirements.

Materials development has been one of the challenges holding OLED back from widespread adoption. Some colors have been difficult to achieve, and some materials degrade more quickly than others. Although OLED is a good fit for the needs of cellphones and products requiring small, energy-efficient displays, expanding development into larger displays has been held back partly due to the lack of volume production. Until OLEDs are manufactured on a wider scale, they will continue to be more expensive than LCDs.

The Samsung-UDC deal doesn't target larger displays, but both companies say they are committed to expanding the development of OLED as the next generation of display technology.

The display market in general appears to be ready for disruption: A number of leading manufacturers of LCDs have sold some of their production facilities and moved toward outsourcing display production. The LCD market is currently suffering from over-capacity, and prices have declined. Market researcher IHS iSuppli forecasts that LCD outsourcing will increase as OEMs seek more flexibility of sourcing and the cost of investing in newer LCD facilities increases.(See: Display Market Outsourcing Accelerates.)

Samsung has already established its volume and price leadership in display manufacturing. If OLED technology migrates up within the Samsung organization, it could accelerate the development of large-screen OLED displays. As more regions pass legislation requiring energy efficiency in electronics products, OLED may become more common in consumer products such as TVs. But it is going to take a significant increase in manufacturing capacity to resolve the price differential with LCDs.

Samsung already is a leader in OLED investment. According to IHS iSuppli:

    Samsung has led the charge in AMOLED manufacturing and will continue its commitment to the technology with an investment of $4.8 billion into its next-generation 5.5G, or 1,300 millimeter by 1,500 millimeter, AMOLED fab. This first stage of production will turn out 24,000 substrates per month from Samsung’s Tangjeong facility.

    Samsung has discussed up to three increments of 5.5G capacity and about 70,000 in monthly capacity, which would boost its AMOLED output capacity from its 2010 levels of about 3 million per month to more than 8 million panels per month total of 4-inch equivalent displays per month by the end of 2011. A second fab line with the same capacity is scheduled to commence mass production in early 2012—likely in the first quarter—which will significantly increase overall AMOLED supply.

    Moreover, 5.5G lines have the potential to transition to the production of larger displays for applications like televisions.

    With the shortage of AMOLEDs for smart phones, it is anticipated that Samsung will concentrate on small-and-medium sized AMOLED displays with these two Gen 5.5 lines. Samsung has announced its intent to manufacture 7-inch Galaxy tablet panels using AMOLED. Given the current strong demand for smart phones, it is unlikely that volume production of tablet panels will start before 2013.

    Other suppliers are looking at AMOLED capacity installation and expansion as well. However, none of these other suppliers are as aggressive in their investment as Samsung.

Another big investor in OLED, says IHS iSuppli, is the government of China. Samsung, a Korean company, and UDC, a US company, should take this opportunity to capitalize on their leadership position in OLED.

14 comments on “OLED Technology Gets a Boost in Samsung-Universal Deal

  1. Houngbo_Hospice
    August 23, 2011

    Due to the energy-efficiency advantage that OLED technology has over traditional LCD displays, I beleive that many display manufacturers will eventually invest in this technology. And Samsung-Universal deal may be the actual boost that it needs.

  2. prabhakar_deosthali
    August 24, 2011

    OLEDs seem to be the green product and could replace LCDs altogether in the coming years.  Just curious to know – do the materials used in the manufacturing of OLEDs create hazardous waste or byproducts?  and how much is the life of the products made from OLEDs?

  3. Daniel
    August 24, 2011

    Barbara, from specifications of OLED, it’s very clear that they are very ecco friendly. Since the power consumption is very less, the wide application of OLED in electronic appliances and display unit can help to crunch the energy crisis too.

  4. Jay_Bond
    August 24, 2011

    OLED technology is much better for the environment in many cases, not to mention it has many advantages over LCD's. It is a shame that there hasn't been enough capital investment to get these displays more main stream and prices lowered. Personally I would love to pick up a large OLED television to replace the LCD, but at double the price (for mid 50 to 60 inch display) it is hard to justify the cost. As soon as more money flows into the technology it will get better for consumers, the question will be how much longer do we have to wait.

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    August 24, 2011

    All–OLED materials do not create any hazards for the environment–another advantage to the technology. I need to do some research to see if they need lead like some displays do for radiation–or if anyone knows, chime in!

    August 24, 2011

    Barb.  I asked Samsung design engineers about AMOLED manufacturing a few years back and they told me it did not use toxic materials.  I also saw the displays in development and I thought they were amazing compared to equivalent sized LED.  I imagine the large format manufacturing will be sorted in the next few years and we can all look forward to fantastic TV screens.

  7. t.alex
    August 27, 2011

    This is gonna be interesting for Samsung to beat against Apple.

  8. Himanshugupta
    August 27, 2011

    Barbara, your article pointed out few major advantages as well as disadvantages. Now as LED is widely used instead of OLED so i presume that advantages of LED outweigh advantages of OLED. Is there any significant breakthrough in OLED that has prompted Samsung to use OLDED in small displays or is it due to the higher prices and shortages of LED? 

  9. Himanshugupta
    August 27, 2011

    @Jay-Bond, if i am correct then the major problem is the lifetime and performance of OLED. If i buy a large screen TV then i would want it to last for let's say 10 years or more. If i use it for 4 hours a day then we need a life time of atleast 15,000 hours or more. Most OLED have lifetime of 10,000hrs or less. We can, though, use them in camera screens or mobiles.

  10. elctrnx_lyf
    August 28, 2011

    @HImanshu …. OLED Technology are actually not going to replace the LED's but they are actually will be replacement for the LCD. The main advantage of OLED displays is that they do not need any backlight like TFT LCD. Exhi pixel will generate its own light and colour based on the control.

  11. elctrnx_lyf
    August 28, 2011

    This investment will help samsung to take a big lead to become a leader in the OLED display segment in the future. This technology is one area where we would probably see more and more investment since the displays are used in almost all the electronic products now a days.

  12. Taimoor Zubar
    August 28, 2011

    @Himanshu: That's an interesting point. I was not aware of the lifetime factor for OLEDs. Even 4 hours a day is a small number. In commercial displays the daily usage may easily exceed it. I think the lifetime restriction is a potential downside of OLEDs and unless that's worked upon, OLEDs may not become widespread.

  13. Himanshugupta
    August 28, 2011

    @electrnx, as OLED generate their own light so they are efficient than LEDs but at the cost of the lifetime. I guess, instead of finding a market in LED, OLED should focus on flexible display market. For example, rollable window screens that are otherwise transparent but can used as display then they could be aesthetically used.

  14. _hm
    August 29, 2011

    Who are other major players for OLED? From where does Apple gets their OLED displays? User exepreince with OLED on Google Nexus S is wonderful. More and more vendor will introduce new products with OLED. Now, new goal for OLED is to extend its life. Whay is maximum operating temperature range for OLED for military applications?


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