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The Challenges and Potential of MicroLED Technology

Samsung's The Wall microLED display at ISE 2020
Samsung's The Wall microLED display at ISE 2020 (Image credit: Matt Pruznick)

From mobile phones, TVs, to cars and public screens, displays have become an important component in our daily life to convey information. An emerging display type, microLED display, has the potential to become the next-generation mainstream standard, according to a report by market research firm IDTechEx.

Driving Development

While LCD dominates most display applications and OLED and QD-LCD sit as premium, why are players still pursuing microLED? First of all, microLED displays deliver value propositions such as wide color gamut, high luminance, low power consumption, excellent stability, and long lifetime, as well as wide view angles, high dynamic range, high contrast, fast refresh rate, transparency, seamless connection, and sensor integration capability. Some of the value propositions can be provided by alternatives such as LCD, OLED, and QD, while microLED has its unique value propositions that are pursued by many. The demand from consumers is one of the major motivations. In addition, they can become unique selling points for the suppliers, as marketed by OLED when OLED first emerged.

Related: Samsung Intros The Wall for Business in up to 583 Inches, 8K at ISE 2020

Another driver comes from the supply side. Current display markets are dominated by LCD, whose manufacturing is shifting to China due to cost competence, as well as OLED in premium, whose technologies are held by South Korea. Getting involved in a new display technology could bring new opportunities to the players.

An increasing number of prototypes have been displayed to the public, which indicates the science is there. However, more challenging are the engineering and manufacturing issues. For instance, conventional LEDs can reach external quantum efficiencies (EQEs) to ~70 percent, while tiny microLEDs less than 10µm may struggle to reach 20 percent. Red LEDs are especially challenging with low EQEs and brittle features. Tiny microLEDs have large surface areas, which may lead to more defects during the fabrication process. Therefore, solving engineering/manufacturing challenges is important, including die size miniaturization while maintaining the high efficiency, chip design, and chip manufacturing technique improvement.

Supply Chain Challenges

There are many steps and processes to fabricate a microLED display, with varied difficulties. In earlier years, the major focuses of research and development were on die miniaturization, chip design, efficiency enhancement, mass transfer, and full color realization. Recently, more and more players realize a complete understanding of all of the processes is the key. Therefore, an increasing number of people put more effort also on technologies such as inspection, repair, driving, image improvement, light management, and high-volume production equipment.

Involving multiple existing industries and new industries, micoLED displays may shape the existing LED and display supply chain, resulting in a lengthy and complex new one. New technology approach and new products can also provide new opportunities for the players, such as the CMOS industry, which can take a position in the microLED-based micro-display supply chain. Each player will optimize their gain in the value chain, and therefore, a deep understanding of the technology and market status is important.

The report from IDTechEx explains technology limitations and capabilities, offers market status analysis, supply chain understanding, player activity tracking, as well as global trends. Read the full report here: MicroLED Displays 2020-2030: Technology, Commercialization, Opportunity, Market, and Players.