LEDinside, a division of TrendForce, points out that LED manufacturers have turned to research and development of Mini LED, due to Micro LED’s technological bottlenecks which make it harder to realize commercialization in short term.
Companies can develop Mini LED using their current equipment, with only small changes of manufacturing process. Mini LED has the potential to be adopted for television, mobile phones, automotive display, digital display, etc., with revenue expected to reach US$1 billion in 2023. In particular, LED digital display and large-size TV will be the mainstream applications of Mini LED.
According to Simon Yang, Assistant Research Manager of LEDinside, with sizes of about 100-200μm, mini LED chips can be used for self-emitting displays and backlighting. Sony has released Micro LED display in 2016, which had rather high cost and technological barrier, so LED companies now turn to research on Mini LED, which has larger chip size, for realizing mass production in shorter time. Compared with traditional LED display, Mini LED display is more likely to have high dynamic range imaging and wider color gamut.
As for consumer electronics products, the cost of using Mini LED chips for a self-emitting display is too high, and the resolution may not meet the requirements of existing products. Therefore, the companies aim to use Mini LED as backlight to replace traditional backlighting in LCD panel. Mini LED backlighting can be used in TVs, mobile phones, automotive displays, etc. LEDinside estimates that Mini LED backlighting demos have chance to be released in 2018.
It is possible for high-end TV products to adopt Mini LED, which has advantages like high brightness and higher dynamic range imaging. In terms of applications in mobile phones, Mini LED-equipped products can realize high contrast and high brightness similar to OLED products. Together with local dimming, Mini LED is likely to compete with OLED in terms of performance and price.
Companies worldwide have been actively involved in the development of Mini LED products, including chip makers like Epistar, Lextar, San’an Optoelectronics, HC SemiTek, etc., packaging companies like Everlight, Advanced Optoelectronic Technology, Harvatek, Seoul Semiconductor, etc., IC designers like Macroblock, Raydium, etc., panel makers like AU Optronics, and Innolux Corporation, and digital display makers like Leyard, etc.
However, there are still challenges for the development of Mini LED. The high cost is a major concern since Mini LED product uses more chips, leading to higher costs in pick and place and bonding processes, as well as longer processing time and higher risks of low yield rate. In addition, Mini LED needs more optical distance, which adds to the difficulty in making the products thinner.