Chinese Experts: Samsung Large-Sized OLED Panels Takes a Break from RGB Technology

Samsung officials in China have denied recent market rumors that “the company is terminating OLED TV production capacity expansion plans,” according to a China Business News report. Chinese industry insiders interviewed in the report note the company’s is probably considering adjusting large-screened OLED TV production technology.

Samsung is only pausing OLED TV production expansions for 2014

A representative from Samsung’s office in China refuted recent market rumors of ditching OLED TV production capacity expansion plans. “Samsung is just halting this year’s OLED production expansion plans, but this doesn’t mean it has given up on future expansion plans,” said Display Search China Analyst Robin Wu. “Those outside the industry have misunderstood.”

Samsung’s small and mid-sized OLED panel revenue performance has been fairly good, said Wu. The company planned to transform an 8-inch LCD panel production line from amorphous silicon (a-Si) to manufacturing large-sized OLED panels to support the group’s TV business. “The fact that Samsung has halted this plan indicates there are still technological challenges,” noted Wu.

Σintell Vice General Manager Li Yaqin also pointed out the market has misinterpreted Samsung’s recent move. Samsung’s 8.5 generation production line still has an OLED panel capacity of 10,000 units, which is supplied to manufacturing its AMOLED TV. “This manufacturing volume and technological experimentation is unlikely to stop,” said Li.

Samsung’s 55-inch OLED TV. (LEDinside/Samsung)

Samsung’s current OLED plant expansion halt signals change of  technology

The possibility of Samsung swapping large-sized OLED panel technology is still on the table, according to officials from leading Chinese display manufacturers BOE Technology Group and CSOT. Samsung’s halt of OLED TV panel production might be a sign of switching technology development routes, said Zheng Zhiyuan, Director, R&D, CSOT. An industry source commented Samsung’s actions “will not affect our OLED research progress, and allow us to define our development direction.”

Samsung’s OLED technology uses Fine Metal Mask (FMM) Low Temperature Polysilicon (LTPS) backplane with true RGB. By utilizing this OLED manufacturing method, the Korean manufacturer has been fairly successful in the small to mid-sized OLED panel market, and has even monopolized the global OLED mobile phone display market. Samsung is currently the only company incorporating LTPS backplane technology in large-sized OLEDs.

Rival company LG Display (LGD), however, has adopted a completely different OLED technology. The company has made significant breakthroughs in OLED panel yield rates, and has been actively promoting OLED TV. Under the support of LGD, Chinese color TV manufacturer Skyworth launched its first 55-inch OLED TV on May 1, 2014. The OLED TV has an online retail price of RMB 29,999 (US$ 4813.64) which is about half the price of Samsung and LG same sized OLED TVs RMB 60,000.

LGD's 55-inch OLED TV. (LEDinside/LGD)

LGD’s OLED yield rates have increased to about 70% in 2014, and the company’s second OLED production line will be initiated in second half of this year, said Choi Dong-yuan, President of Global Marketing at LGD. LGD’s White OLED (WOLED) technology is based on oxide-TFT backplane, has been able to quickly scale up yield rates, introducing the possibility of lowering retail price, said Zeng. “Samsung has been unable to produce large volumes of large-sized OLED TV panels, and has high production cost. The company had to halt OLED TV production because of risks associated to continual production expansions. It is possible that the company will turn to WOLED technology to manufacture large-sized OLEDs,” explained Zeng. Samsung has signed many oxide-TFT backplane technology patent licenses, and has conducted plenty of research in this field, he continued. If Samsung clearly “changes course”, it will carve out a definite path for Chinese OLED manufacturers to develop large-sized OLED panels using oxide-TFT and small to midsized panels using FMM LTPS backplane technologies.

BOE Technology Group has also signed oxide patent licenses. “BOE Technology Group and CSOT will continue carrying out large-sized OLED R&D,” said Shi-Ming Shi, Deputy Chief of Flexible Design Institute at the company. “We have always been using oxide-TFT technology in our OLED R&D.” Samsung’s paused OLED TV panel expansion plans indicate the “OLED TV market penetration rate has been lower than expected,” reminded Li. LCD TV technology is advancing quickly, and has clearly higher Cost/Performance advantages. China’s panel industry’s OLED R&D is still focused on raising small sized panel yield rates. “Although, white light OLED TV prices have been lowered to under RMB 30,000, slashing prices to within RMB 10,000 still presents many challenges,” added Li.  

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