OLED is an emerging display technology that uses thin films of organic materials to make efficient, thin and high quality displays. OLED panels can made flexible, rollable and transparent. Korea's LG is at the forefront of OLED development and production - as the world's only OLED TV producer and a leading developer of flexible OLED and OLED lighting panels. LG's subsidiary LG Display is responsible for OLED R&D and panel production, while LG Electronics produces and markets OLED TVs.
LG OLED TVs
LG's 2018 OLED TV lineup include the flagship Wallpaper OLEDW8 (which attaches to the wall using magnets), the OLED-on-glass OLEDE8, the basic OLEDC8 and the entry level OLEDB8. The only TV that is shipping now is the 55" OLEDC8 which is priced at $2,500 (note: this is an affiliated link to Amazon).
As of 2018, the only company that produces produces commercial OLED TV panels is LG Display, and LG Electronics is the leading OLED TV producer - although LGD also supplies OLED panels to other companies including including Panasonic, Sony, Grundig, Philips, Metz, Loewe, Skyworth, Changhong, Haier, Konka and others.
While the basic OLED TV design uses RGB OLED sub-pixels to create each 'pixel' (what is referred to as direct emission OLED, the design used in mobile OLED displays used in Samsung's and Apple's smartphones, for example), LG Display opted for a different OLED TV design. The so-called WRGB (or WOLED-CF) architecture uses four white OLED subpixels with color filters on top (hence W+RBG). The WRGB technology (developed by Kodak and now owned by LG Display) is much easier to produce and scale-up, even though it has some technical disadvantages - and it is the technology that enabled LG to be the first company to actually produce commercial OLED TV panels.
LG Display is developing and producing OLED lighting panels, and the company is one of the leaders in OLED lighting. The company produces several panels, including flexible OLED panels and high efficiency panels. In December 2017 LG started mass production at its new 5-Gen OLED lighting fab in Gumi, Korea.
The 5-Gen line has an initial capacity of 15,000 substrates per month - about 30 times the capacity of LG's previous 2-Gen line that had a monthly capacity of 4,000 substrates. LG hopes that the new line will enable it to produces OLED lighting panels at a much lower cost (initial estimates suggested a 95% cost reduction!) which it hopes will trigger the widespread adoption of OLED lighting globally.
DSCC analysts say that OLED stack materials will grow from $1.04 billion in 2018 to over $2 billion in 2022 - a CAGR of 17%.
DSCC says that up until now it greatly underestimated Novaled's revenues, and it now says that Novaled generated revenues of $97 million in 2017 and $122 million in 2018. Novaled is the third largest OLED material company by revenue - following Universal Display and Merck. The three companies combined will hold a market share of 56% in 2023.
China-based All View Cloud consultancy says that OLED TV sales in China will reach 380,000 units in 2019, (up from 210,000 in 2018 and 120,000 in 2017) and will rise to 800,000 units in 2020. By 2021 or 2021 the sales will surpass 2 million units - which will make China the world's largest market for OLED TVs.
Today LG Display announced that the Guangzhou will start production in August 2019. The fab will begin with test runs in July but it seems that LGD is confident that mass production will begin next month. The initial capacity of this new fab will be 60,000 monthly substrates, which will bring LGD's total OLED TV capacity to 130,000 monthly 8.5-Gen substrates (i.e. will almost double its current capacity).
Polyimide is required for OLED production, and Japan controls about 90% of the world's production. According to a new report from Korea, Samsung and other companies have warned the Korean government that production in some plants could be halted as early as by the end of July if these materials are not available. It is not clear what is the situation of Samsung's (and LG's) OLED production.
According to a new report from Korea, LG Electronics is in talks with China-based BOE to supply OLED panels for future smartphones -and replace LGE's current supplier - it's sister company LG Display.
The report suggests two reasons for LG's talk with BOE. First is LG's drive to cut costs as its mobile phone business is losing massive amounts of money. The second reason is that LG Display cannot supply enough panels for LG Electronics as it still struggles with low production yields.
LG Display announced that its OLED TV panels received an Eye Comfort Display certification from TÜV Rheinland, a global leader in independent inspection services.
LG Display says that its 65" OLED TVs emit 34% light, lower than TUV's 50% threshold. LGD says that the highest-spec 65" LCD panels emit 64% blue light. LGD's OLED TV panels met all of TUV's testing criteria and scored 0.87% in the light reflection category, which is half of that of LCD panels.
Japan's government decided to restrict some material exports to South Korea. The restricted materials are fluorinated polyimide, resist - and high-purity hydrogen fluoride. Japan is the world's leader in production of these materials (about 90% of fluorinated polyimide and resist) which makes it difficult for producers to find alternatives.
These restrictions could mean that both Samsung and LG Display may find it difficult to keep OLED production at its current level. Both companies have accumulated a large stock of these materials, but if these restrictions hold up for a long time this could be a problem for the South Korean OLED makers (and a boon for Chinese OLED makers, of course).
IHS says that ink-jet printing of OLED displays is finally ready to enter mass production in 2020. Production will begin at a rate of around 105,000 yearly substrates (209,000 sqm) in 2020, but will grow 12-fold within 4 years to reach 1.3 million yearly substrates in 2024 (or 7.3 million sqm).
The first producer to begin mass production using ink-jet printing will be JOLED who will enter mass production in 2020 (it already produces panels but at very low volume). OLED makers in China will quickly follow JOLED with mass production investments starting in 2020 or 2021.
LG Electronics announced that its latest smartphone, the V50 ThinQ 5G is off to a great start, having sold 100,000 units in Korea in the first week following its launch. LGE says that this is more than four times than the sales of its V40 smartphone.
The V50 ThinQ 5G sports a 6.4" 1440x3120 pOLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and a microSD slot. LG's first 5G smartphone also offers a triple camera setup.
At CES 2019, Alienware demonstrated a gaming monitor that uses a 55" 4K 120Hz OLED display. This monitor supports 4K at 120Hz using the new HDMI v2.1 connection (also supported by LG's latest 2019 OLED TVs).
Earlier this week we reported that Alienware has not plans to actually launch this product - but according to PCGamer, a Dell spokesman says that the company is definitely going to release it - at Q4 2019 in "selected markets". This is good news for many gamers who were looking forward to this exciting (but probably highly expensive) monitor.