What you should know about micro-LED displays
Various motivations are driving the development of micro-LED displays
From mobile phones, TVs, to cars and public screens, displays have become an important component in our daily life to convey information. There is an emerging display type — micro-LED display, that has the potential to become the next-generation mainstream, with its ability to be fabricated from tiny to huge sizes. The challenges and opportunities are discussed in the brand-new IDTechEx report “Micro-LED Displays 2020-2030: Technology, Commercialization, Opportunity, Market and Players”.
Various things drive micro-LED display development
While LCD dominates most display applications and OLED & QD-LCD sit as premium, why are players still pursuing micro-LED? First of all, micro-LED displays deliver value propositions such as wide colour gamut, high luminance, low power consumption, excellent stability and long lifetime, wide view angle, high dynamic range, high contrast, fast refresh rate, transparency, seamless connection, and sensor integration capability, etc. Some of the value propositions can be provided by alternatives such as LCD, OLED and QD, while micro-LED has its unique value propositions that are pursued by many. The demand from consumers is one of the major motivations. In addition, they can become unique selling points for the suppliers, as marketed by OLED when OLED first emerged.
Value propositions of LCD, OLED, QD and Micro-LED displays. Image source: IDTechEx report “Micro-LED Displays 2020-2030: Technology, Commercialization, Opportunity, Market and Players” (www.IDTechEx.com/MicroLED)
Another driver comes from the supply side. Current display markets are dominated by LCD, whose manufacturing is shifting to China due to cost competence, as well as OLED in premium, whose technologies are held by South Korea. Getting involved in a new display technology could bring new opportunities to the players.
Third but not last, even more players are following the micro-LED industry. Micro-LED may not be their major focus at the moment but they keep close track on it, just in case when micro-LED really takes off, they can quickly catch up, instead of being left behind.
Proven science – not enough engineering & manufacturing?
An increasing number of prototypes have been displayed to the public, which indicates the science is there. However, more challenging are the engineering and manufacturing issues. For instance, conventional LEDs can reach external quantum efficiencies (EQEs) to ~70%, while tiny micro-LEDs less than 10 µm may struggle to reach 20%. Red LEDs are especially challenging with low EQEs and brittle features. Tiny micro-LEDs have large surface areas, which may lead to more defects during the fabrication process. Therefore, solving engineering/manufacturing challenges is important, including die size miniaturization while maintaining the high efficiency, chip design and chip manufacturing technique improvement.
Shifts of R&D focuses
There are many steps and processes to fabricate a micro-LED display, with varied difficulties. In earlier years, the major focuses of research and development were on die miniaturization, chip design, efficiency enhance, mass transfer and full colour realization. Recently, more and more players realize a complete understanding of all of the processes is the key. Therefore, an increasing number of people put more efforts also on technologies such as inspection, repair, driving, image improvement, light management and high-volume production equipment.
Supply chain reshuffle
Involving multiple existing industries and new industries, micoLED displays may shape the existing LED and display supply chain, resulting in a lengthy and complex new one. New technology approach and new products can also provide new opportunities for the players, such as the CMOS industry can take a position in the micro-LED-based micro-display supply chain. Each player will optimize their gain in the value chain, and therefore, a deep understanding of the technology and market status is important.