- Inkjet (IJP) OLED technology will be adopted in display production starting in 2019, and total substrate input will reach 1,301,000 per year by 2024 with area at around 7,334 K m² in the most optimistic forecast.
- Once JOLED opens the market for IJP OLED IT panels with its mass production line in 2019, Chinese panel makers will start investing in IJP mass production lines in 2020 and 2021, and other panel makers will speed up adoption of the technology in display production in 2021 and beyond.
- Chinese panel makers are more motivated to invest in IJP OLED as it is not only aligned with China’s long-term national strategy, but it also might ease financial pressure once the technology is matured in the coming years.
As the technology has improved over time, IJP OLED technology will be adopted in display production starting in 2019, and total substrate input will reach 1,301,000 per year by 2024 with area at around 7,334 K m² in the most optimistic forecast, according to the recently released IHS Markit Inkjet Printing for AMOLED: Technology and Market Report 2019.
Once JOLED opens the market for IJP OLED IT panels with its mass production line in 2019, Chinese panel makers will start investing in IJP mass production lines in 2020 and 2021, and other panel makers will speed up adoption of the technology in display production in 2021 and beyond.
Inkjet OLED cost reduction
Inkjet OLED has attracted a lot of attention from panel makers for years thanks to its cost-saving potential. Although OLEDs compete with LCDs in the high-end market with small- and large-size displays, the high selling price due to expensive production costs has slowed the OLED penetration rate in the display market.
In large-size display applications—like TV—adopting inkjet OLED in production is expected to save 15–25% over white OLED (WOLED) for a 65-inch 4K TV on Gen 10 line and a 55-inch 4K TV on Gen 8 line with the same yielding in both technologies.
In the meantime, the competitiveness of inkjet OLED also extends to the small- and medium-size display market as well. According to an IHS Markit analysis, inkjet OLED can reduce the production cost by about 20% compared with the fine metal mask (FMM) OLED method in the production of a 13.3-inch OLED panel on a Gen 6 production line.
Compared with WOLED and FMM OLED, inkjet has a lower initial investment in machineries and fab construction, high material usage—up to 90–95% and above—and the lowest running cost during production.
Inkjet OLED moves through IT before reaching TV
Because inkjet OLED does not perform as well as WOLED and its process is more complex, many panel manufacturers are trying to develop it for IT panels (monitors, notebook PCs, and tablets). IT brands expect inkjet OLED to reduce the cost of OLED panels for IT products in the long term.
AMOLED shipments for tablet PCs, notebook PCs, and monitors are still lower than LCD shipments owing to challenges in stabilizing the yield rate of large-size RGB evaporation or the yield rate of small- and medium-sized WOLED evaporation. Therefore, inkjet OLED may be a good alternative for the IT segment because it can achieve 80–200 pixels per inch (ppi) with RGB SBS layout and 403 ppi or significantly higher with a hydrophobic layer inside the subpixel.
Besides advantages like lower initial investment, etc., adopting inkjet OLED in medium-size panel production has fewer challenges in equipment supply, and yielding and panelization can be higher than FMM approach. In the meantime, disadvantages from inkjet OLED products like shorter life time and less color performance and light luminescence can be compensated by having a larger aperture ratio in inkjet OLED devices and adding a color filter on top of the printed OLED device.
Driving force from Chinese panel makers
Until 2019, seven companies have begun to invest in inkjet OLED displays with several pilot and R&D lines built in the past two years. However, whether inkjet OLED can be used in mass production line is mainly dependent on Chinese panel makers, like BOE, China Star, etc.
Chinese panel makers are more motivated than others to promote inkjet technology. One of the main reasons is that investing in inkjet OLED fits China’s national long-term strategies. Another reason is Chinese panel makers are trying to find a profitable technology, like inkjet OLED, to ease their financial pressure due to the heavily over-supplied LCD market. Because of the aggressive capacity expansion in LCD, this market is no longer profitable, and intense competition has increased the financial pressure for almost all panel makers. Even with strong support from the government, Chinese panel makers must find a way to increase revenue soon. With this background, inkjet OLED comes in handy as:
- It can reduce the production cost of OLED TV panels, which is in the high-end market with good profitability.
- It can bypass many patent issues from Korea panel makers.
- It has the potential to open a new market in IT panels and automotive, suggesting more room for market growths in the future.
- This technology can even compete with FMM OLED in cell phones and tablets.
Inkjet Printing for AMOLED: Technology and Market Report 2019
This IHS Markit report features the technology background, supply chain analysis, capacity forecast, and competitiveness analysis for inkjet OLED displays based on technology maturity, current development, and estimations of manufacturing costs.