LEDinside, a division of the global market research firm TrendForce, held LEDforum 2016 at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) International Convention Center on September 30. This conference, which focused on micro-LED as the next-generation display technology, featured presentations by industry and research heavyweights including Epistar, Trillion Science, hTC, PlayNitrides, OSRAM Opto, Macroblock, Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), X-Celeprint and CEA-Leti.
“Potential applications of micro-LED extend beyond display systems,” said Roger Chu, research manager of LEDinside. “Many value-added opportunities related to the development of this technology could lead to reshuffling and extension of various component chains.”
LEDinside forecasts that the value of the global LED market will increase at a compound annual growth rate of just 2% from 2016 to 2021. The industry is now exploring new application markets to overcome the limits of its expansion.
“Looking at the display application, OLED has already undergone a period of significant development,” Chu noted. “With South Korean technology enterprises controlling most of the crucial OLED patents, those companies that are now considering entering this market will have little chance of catching up. Micro-LED, on other hand, is a technology that has room for new entrants to develop market opportunities.”
By scaling down the size of LEDs to the micron level, the light emitted at every pixel on a micro-LED display can be controlled individually. Greater brightness, lower power consumption, enhanced color saturation and extremely high resolution are also some of advantages that micro-LED possesses. It is even possible for this technology to combine with flexible substrates, thus creating curved displays comparable to ones based on OLED. All these qualities give micro-LED a wide range of application options.
A recent analysis by LEDinside finds that having all wearable devices and public displays on the market to switch to micro-LED would consume as much as 50% of the current LED production capacity worldwide. Moreover, to have all the smartphones on the market to adopt the technology would require four times as much of the global capacity.
“There are still numerous technological bottlenecks that have to be addressed in the course of developing micro-LED displays,” said Chu. “The most critical juncture is the mass transfer of micron-sized LEDs onto substrates. Finding a solution to this challenge will also open up the possibility of mass transferring other microelectronic components, including sensors.”
Chu added that micro-LED provides sufficient pixel pitch to incorporate different sensors that are on the displays of mobile devices: “In the future, the development of micro-LED displays for mobile devices will likely allow for the integration of optical and fingerprint sensors (and perhaps other types of sensors as well). This is an advantage that the current OLED technology does not have. Hence, micro-LED is not only poised to expand into various display applications but also has the potential to generate additional values for end devices. The room for development is huge.”