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Small OLED performance and forecast in the first quarter of 2021

UBI Research has published a market track on the market performance of small OLED under 10 inches. The main application products are foldable phones, smartphones, and watches.

According to UBI Research’s small OLED market track, OLED shipments for smartphones (including foldable phones) in the first quarter were 140 million units, a decrease of 13.5% compared to the previous quarter (QoQ), but increase of 32.4% compared to the same quarter of the previous year (YoY).

In the first quarter of 2020, OLED shipments also decreased due to a decrease in smartphone sales due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The reason for the 13.5% decrease compared to the fourth quarter of 2020 is that shipments surged in the fourth quarter of last year due to iPhone launches and strong sales.

In terms of sales by company, Samsung Display and LG Display account for 79.0% and 11.3%, respectively, and Korean OLED dominate the market with 90.3%.

Foldable Phone Cover Window Material Competition To Heat up.

Ahead of Samsung Electronics’ unpacking event, interest in the foldable phone cover window material is hot. There was a concerned surprise that the Galaxy Fold, which was scheduled to be released in the first half of last year, was delayed for several months due to the tearing issue of the protective film. This year’s concern is whether Ultrathin Glass (UTG), which has emerged as a substitute for Colorless Polyimide (CPI), can be mass-produced without major issues.

Samsung Electronics will release the Galaxy Z flip known as “Clamshell” in the first half of this year and the Galaxy Fold 2 known as “Winner 2” in the second half of this year. The Clamshell is known to adopt UTG. This material is advantageous in terms of the hardness required for the use of the S Pen, the luxurious visibility and the soft touch unique to the glass. Moreover, the major reason for adopting UTG is known to remove wrinkle at the center of the screen, which has been pointed out as a disadvantage of CPI.

Prior to adopting UTG, Samsung Display invested $ 40.8M in Dowooinsys, UTG maker, and became the largest shareholder with 27.7% stake. The intention is to secure the stable supply of UTG and reduce its dependence on Japan for major materials.

<Ultrathin Glass (UTG) (Source : Dowooinsys homepage)>

However, there are also concerns about the adoption of UTG. Schott, AGC and Corning are also developing the product and they can produce substrates with a thickness of about 100 mm by the floating method or the slit nozzle method. To make it even thinner, Dowooinsys uses hot drawing or HF etching. The thickness of UTG to secure durability is believed to be 100 mm or more and with this thickness, the radius of curvature is about 2 ~ 3mm (~1mm for CPI), which reduces design freedom of the foldable phones. To improve durability, the UTG surface is coated with a polymer resin, which also prevents glass fragments from scattering when broken. The current problems of UTG are that mass production and yield are not yet secured due to the difficulty of the process, and that there exist traumatic worries on unexpected durability issues when released to the market.

Meanwhile, CPI material companies, which have been threatened by the news that UTG will be adopted for Clamshell, are also preparing to fight back. In order to remove the changeable window film (protective film) of PET material applied to Galaxy Fold, they are increasing the hardness of the hard coating on the CPI and developing a functional coating to give a glassy gloss. In particular, Dongwoo Fine-Chem, which did hard-coating on the CPI for Galaxy Fold, is known to simplify the process by developing hard coating materials including antifouling function. With all efforts added up , the CPI cover window structure is changed from the first generation foldable phone (PET + COA + CPI + COA) to the second generation foldable phone (CPI + COA), enabling the thickness to be reduced from about 200 mm to half, and the material cost and the process to be reduced.

<2019 Released Samsung Galaxy Fold Structure (Source: UBI Research Report)>

<Structure Prediction of the Samsung Galaxy Fold Follow-up Models: When Using UTG (Left) and CPI (Right) (Source: UBI Research)>

In addition to Sumitomo Chemical, which supplied to Galaxy Fold, Kolon Industries and SKC are also preparing for mass production of CPI. While UTG adoption seems to benefit to Clamshell with small screens, CPI is advantageous for larger screen sizes. UTG must make up for durability at the thickness retaining design freedom, and secure mass production system and price competitiveness through process improvement. CPI should strive to improve the hardness and appearance close to glass, and also increase price competitiveness. The material selection criteria will vary with the foldable phone models and customer response. Therefore the customer response for the Clamshell will be an important step in the future direction of the foldable phone cover window material. The market for the material is expected to grow rapidly, reaching $ 429.6M by 2023. The competition between UTG and CPI to take the market first has now begun.

[Press Release] AMOLED sales to reach USD 32.2 billion in 2019, up 13.8% from 2018

UBI Research (CEO, Yi, Choonghoon) published the annual OLED report in 2019.

According to the report, the OLED market is expected to reach $ 32.2 billion in 2019 and 13.8% market growth. The market growth is due to the launch of a variety of applications in 2019. Foldable OLED will accelerate the growth of the flexible OLED market as a convergence product that fuses smartphones and tablet PCs, and 8K OLEDs and rollable OLEDs to be launched from 2H 2019 will further solidly support the premium OLED TV market. In addition, an increase in flexible OLED shipments due to improved yields by Chinese panel makers will support growth in the Chinese OLED market.

AMOLED revenue in the fourth quarter of 2018 was $ 7.9 billion, down 3.7% from $ 8.2 billion in the third quarter and down 10.4% from $ 8.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017. The quarterly OLED market was highly volatile due to sales fluctuations at Samsung Display.

Revenue in 2018 was $ 28.3 billion, up 7.1% from $ 26.4 billion in 2017. The growth slowed suddenly compared to growth of 58.7% in 2017. The sluggish growth is attributable to the sluggish OLED smartphone market, which drove the OLED market up until now. The OLED market for smartphones, which was worth $ 24.2 billion in 2017, was only $ 24.5 billion in 2018.

Flexible OLED panels are not being adopted in mid-end smartphones due to the high cost of manufacturing flexible OLED panels for smartphones. As a result, the oversupply will continue due to lack of demand compared to the 6G flexible OLED investment. In the fourth quarter of 2018, there was an oversupply of 31%. In the first quarter of 2019, oversupply will increase to 39% by overlapping seasonal demand decline.

 

[IMID 2018] Samsung Display, The key material that will connect the smart world and the individual in the future is the display

At IMID 2018 held in BEXCO, Busan, Korea on August 29, Kwak Jin-Oh, vice president of Samsung Display, delivered a keynote speech on the theme of ‘The Infinite Evolution with Display’. He emphasized “Display will be the key material to link to the smart world and the creation of a new world and environment will be accelerated.”

Comparing the evolution of living things with the evolution of displays, Kwak pointed out the direction of the next-generation displays such as ‘size diversity from small to large size, adaption in design inclusive of full screen and flexible, and convergence with other technologies’.

In terms of size diversity, Kwak said, “High-resolution displays that can feel realism in small and medium-sized area, and displays that can be immersed like a big screen in a movie theater in large area, are required.”

The design adaptation then was referred to design autonomy as one of the values of next-generation displays. He further emphasized the value of rollable and stretchable displays as well as foldable displays in small and medium sized displays.

Kwak said that Samsung is developing rollable displays as well as foldable displays that are currently attracting great interest. Unlike foldable display, rollable display requires consideration of the stress on the front of the panel. He commented “Because there are many things to consider such as the time when it is rolled up, and the number of times it is rolled and unrolled, the company is conducting research to solve them.”

He also introduced a stretchable display that can implement patterns freely, and explained that it is developing various structures using RGB pixel unit and stretchable unit to implement displays that have high reliability with low stress.

Mentioning about biotechnology at the convergence area, he pointed out that new fusion technologies need to be considered such as measurement of oxygen saturation by transmitting light to hemoglobin or changes in the wake up mode and sleep mode of the display depending on the melatonin change.

Finally, Kwak concluded that display is evolving to create a new society and environment, emphasizing that display is the key material to link between the individual and the smart world in the forthcoming 5G era.

FlexiGO, developed the durability test equipment capable of accurate evaluation for foldable materials

With the recent announcement that Samsung Electronics and Huawei are aiming to launch smart phones with foldable OLED, folder-type smartphones are drawing attention.

 Display companies are converting glass materials used in the existing substrates and cover windows into plastic materials. Consequently, the durability of plastic materials is becoming an important issue.

There are various types of durability tests, but the most typical durability inspection is the folding test. The folding test is an experiment that repeatedly bends and unfolds the foldable materials including plastic. Typically, a mechanical device is used for pivoting the rotating plate after fixing some part of the foldable material to the fixed plate and fixing the other remaining part to the rotating plate. However, in the conventional devices, the axis of foldable material is different with that of the rotating plate, the foldable material moves along the rotation path of the rotating plate, not the original rotation path of the material. Thus, there is a possibility that a tensile force acts on the folder material. To solve this problem, FlexiGO recently developed Foldy series, new durability test equipment to test foldable materials.

<FlexiGO’s folding test equipment, Source: flexigo.co.kr>

In addition to the conventional fixed plate and rotating plate, the Foldy series adds a motion controller that supports the fixed plate to move forward and backward for the foldable to be moved only through the original rotation path, so that no other stress is applied to the material. As a sliding device is mounted on the motion controller, the fixed plate moves forward and backward, and the rotating plate performs a rotary motion so that the foldable material can slide on the rotating plate.

The Foldy series includes micro vision, surface profiling, and colorimeter. Foldy-10 and Foldy-100 products can be adopted for the durability test in different test environments. In addition, it is possible to mount an additional inspection system, so it is expected that the accurate durability test of various accurate foldable materials is to be possible.

Samsung Electronics’ Display Business Operating Profit in 1Q 2018 slowed down to KRW 410 billion

Samsung Electronics reported sales of KRW 60.56 trillion and operating profit of KRW 15.64 trillion in the first quarter of 2018 at the conference held on April 26. Its display division generated sales of KRW7.54 trillion with the operating profit of KRW410 billion. Display sales QoQ and YoY are -32.6% and 3.4%, respectively, and operating profit QoQ and YoY are -70.9% and -68.5%, respectively. OLED sales accounted for 70% of its total display sales. According to Samsung Electronics, the profitability of OLED segment in the first quarter of 2018 declined due to a decrease in demand from major customers and intensified competition with LTPS LCD for rigid OLED. In spite of the downturn in sales due to seasonal weakness and the decline in panel prices, LCD division achieved similar profitability as the previous quarter, thanks to the increased sales portion of high value-added products such as large-size and UHD and continuous cost reductions.

 

OLED demand is expected to continue to decline in the second quarter of 2018, and Samsung Electronics plans to expand its customer base while striving to secure competitiveness through cost reduction and production efficiency improvement. Although LCD segment is also expected to continue to show oversupply in 2Q 2018 due to the launch of new LCD lines, Samsung Electronics plans to secure profitability through timely development of high value-added and differentiated products, and cost reduction activities. Samsung Electronics said the demand of OLED panels for mobile devices is anticipated to gradually recover in the second half of 2018, while flexible products are expected to be the main focus of premium products. Also it emphasized that Samsung will expand its market share by expanding customer base through new technologies and new products, and strengthening cost competitiveness, together with technology differentiation with LCD and enhancement of new applications capacity. For the LCD segment, uncertainties are to be increased as Chinese panel makers continue to expand production volumes with the fierce competitions competition among companies. Samsung mentioned that it will continue to focus on differentiating with the large and high-end premium products and strengthening strategic partnerships with major customers to secure profitability.  In the first quarter of 2018, Samsung Electronics sold 86 million mobile phones and 5 million tablets. The sales for mobile phone sales in Q2 2018 are expected to decline compared to the previous quarter, and tablet sales are expected to maintain the level of the previous quarter.

Total investment of Samsung Electronics in the first quarter of 2018 was 8.6 trillion won, of which 0.8 trillion won was invested in the display. Although the investment plan for this year has not been finalized yet, it is expected to decline from 2017 due to the rapid expansion of flexible OLED production, new technology development, and facility investment to prepare for market growth last year. Choi Kwon-Young, Vice President of Samsung Display said, “Currently, the mass production of A4 line is ready for operation in accordance with the agreed schedule with the customer. And A3 line is trying to minimize the drop in operation rate.” He continued “We are under development by focusing on Quantum dot and 8K technologies to meet customer needs for big screen TV market. Also we are interested in various next-generation display technologies including micro LED.”

Samsung Electronics has continued research and development for the commercialization of foldable phone, and now it is working with various companies to improve the product’s completeness.” Samsung said. Further, it added “We are focusing on improving the completeness of the product so that it can give real value to the consumers rather than simply launching it for the first time in the world. If the parts performance and durability for the implementation of the foldable phone are more stabilized, and various use cases are found with the emergence of new form factor, we will disclose separately the timing of its commercialization.”

Stretchable OLED commercialization is on the rise

Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics have steadily been releasing smartphones and smart watches using flexible OLED since 2013, and electronics companies in China have begun to put out one of them. In particular, Apple, the leader in the smartphone industry, is also seeing the launch of iPhone with flexible OLED, and the flexible OLED market is expected to grow further.

The shape of the flexible OLED was expected to be changed to foldable and rollable beyond the bendable. Recently, however, the display industry has surpassed this trend and has been focusing on the development of stretchable OLEDs.

<Development Roadmap of OLED, Source: Ubi Research>

A stretchable OLED is a type of a flexible OLED that is finally evolves, which means OLED having elasticity as like rubber band.

 

Samsung Display unveiled this stretchable OLED at SID 2017. Samsung Display’s stretchable OLED is 9.1 inch and implementable both convex and concave shapes. At the time, Samsung Display announced that it realized the world’s first technology to maintain the existing image quality while increasing the screen size to 12 mm in concave mode.

<9.1 inch stretchable OLED displayed by Samsung Display, Source: Samsung Display>

LG Display will also develop the stretchable OLED. LG Display announced on June 6 that it will develop backplane and photoluminescence materials, devices, and process source technologies with elasticity of more than 20% for a total of four years through a consortium with Korea University.

 

In addition, LG Display has developed flexible plastic substrate materials, flexible wiring materials and transparent electrode materials, stretchable organic light emitting materials, and flexible encapsulates, they will also acquire essential process technologies including thin film transistors (TFTs) and process architectures that enable low-temperature processing.

 

At present, stretchable related technology is not yet applied to production, or elongation is only about 5%, and the number of repeated stretching is limited. In addition, most of the source technology is in overseas, it is expected that Samsung Display and LG Display will be able to secure technological gap with latecomers.

Stretchable OLED is free of form restrictions and expected to produce applications in new areas when applied to a variety of applications such as smart phones, tablets clothes and human skin when they are commercialized.

Next to Bezel-less is full-screen, Prospect of 60% market share of full-screen OLED panel in 2020.

Smartphone displays have been diversifying as the hard wares and soft wares in smartphone have been improving. Samsung edge series have successfully entered the flexible OLED smartphone market and other smartphone companies now are manufacturing flexible OLED based products. Furthermore we are expecting a big change in the display market as Apple may release its new iPhone models with OLED in 2017.

According to a recent study “Key Issue and The Market Analysis for Foldable OLED” from UBI research, it is expected that bezel-less type of flexible OLED, which is an upgraded model of dual edge display, will lead the market until 2017 and then there will be new smartphones with various forms of displays as new types of flexible OLED like full-screen, foldable, rollable displays will be launched after.

Also, they expected that full screen displays will be invented by reducing the size of the top and bottom bezels as well as sides bezels and they will be leading the market afterwards.

Moreover, according to the report, they analyzed that the full-screen OLED panels will be at around 17% market share of total flexible AMOLED panel market in 2017 and it will reach around 60% while it will surpass the market share of bezel-less typed panels.

Definition of each Flexible OLED type and the prospect of a market share (UBI Industrial Research)

Researchers also expected that there will be a strong chance that they will release new smartphones with foldable display in 2017 to see how the market reacts and they will get seriously start to manufacture mass production from 2019, taking consumers needs into consideration and anticipating the direction of technology and pace of change. In addition, the size of foldable smartphone’s market is expected to take up to 2% market share by 2020 as around 1.5 million foldable smartphones will be expected to be manufactured.

History of each Smartphone display types. (UBI Industrial Research)

Flexible AMOLED panel market growing to approx one billion USD in 2020

According to the UBI industrial research report on ‘’key issues and market analysis of fordable implementation’’ issued on DATE, in 2020 flexible AMOLED panel (including smart watch panel) will grow to approx one billion USD.

The report says that Samsung Electronics has successfully advanced in the flexible AMOLED smartphone market with distinctive Edge band design, and so have other competitors. Edge-type flexible AMOLED smartphone market size is expected to increase remarkably in 2017. Particularly Samsung electronics’ soon-to-be-released high-end model is equipped with flexible AMOLED panel, and Apple’s iPhone in flexible AMOLED panel application will be launched in 2017. The flexible AMOLED panel market is showing 70% annual market growth, and forecasts approx US$ 40,000 million in 2020.

In 2017 a foldable smartphone and dual edge transformed model in the flexible AMOLED panel application will be introduced in the market.

A UB industrial researcher says “In 2017 along with a new-fixed type flexible smartphone, a foldable smartphone is likely to be released to observe the market response.”

On the other hand, to implement the foldable application the report deals with key issues and current situation of each compartment (substrate ~ cover window), and main development trend to forecast a direction of truly flexible AMOLED panel development.