With MicroLED technologies seeing rapid improvement, technology solutions should start converging by the end of 2019. This is according to the latest report from Yole Développement, which also highlights the next challenge of cost reduction.
In the report – MicroLED Displays 2018 – the consulting company stated that it does not see any major changes affecting market evolution. However, more and more companies are looking into the microLEDs sector, trying to figure out which technology paths are the most suitable. Numerous technologies are being developed for microLED assembly and pixel structures. The cost and complexity range can be staggering.
There are, said the report, some fundamentals that anchor all those processes. Alignment dominates assembly cycle times, die size can’t get infinitely small, epitaxy cost has already been through a more than 20 years on the cost reduction curve. Cost analysis therefore allows companies to narrow the process parameters down to economically realistic windows and identify efficient cost reduction strategies.
With technological improvements, there are, noted Yole, credible cost reduction paths for microLED to compete in the high-end segment of various applications such as TV, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and wearables. With the right approaches, assembly cost could become a minor contributor. For smartphones, however, approaching OLED cost implies pushing microLEDs toward what is likely to be the limits of the technology in term of die size.
To succeed, microLEDs will have to count on some level of price elasticity. It must deliver performance and features that no other display technology can offer and that are perceived by the consumer as highly differentiating. Microdisplays for AR and head-up displays (HUD) will be the first commercial applications, followed by smartwatches. TVs and smartphones could follow on in three-to-five years, according to the company.
Commenting on the report, Dr. Eric Virey, senior market and technology analyst at Yole said: ‘Technology advancements pave the way for various cost reduction paths toward volume manufacturing, but none are straightforward. MicroLED companies must understand the cost targets for each application and work backward, making process choices and developing each step so it fits the cost envelope. Processes that can’t deliver the right economics will disappear. If none can deliver the right economics, the opportunity will never materialise. MicroLED is entering the valley of death between technology development and industrialisation and commercialisation.’