Technological Transformation Brought by Mini LED and Its Supply Chain

With the development of display technology, the panel industry will no longer only focus on the supply and demand. Instead, more emphasis has been placed on the quality and specs upgrade of panels in order to increase the value of display products. This trend has motivated the display panel makers towards better specs, such as high resolution, curved, ultra-thin, lightweight, bendable, high dynamic HDR, high contrast, and wide color gamut. In this way, the displays will be able to present more natural colors and vivid image.

(Image: flickr)

Mini LED will have a wider application range

Current display products use mostly a backlight structure, but the next-generation display technology will be self-emitting, which has a simpler structure than the backlight. Therefore, self- emitting displays are more suitable to make thinner and bendable products. Mini LED can replace the backlight module in nowadays LCD displays. With the features of power saving, thinness, and higher luminous efficiency, Mini LED will be competing with OLED products. Mini LED has improved uniformity in light emission due to miniaturization of light sources, resulting in wider application of Mini LED. For example, it can be applied to outdoor displays, automotive head-up displays, automotive displays, head-mounted displays, wearable devices, mobile phones, televisions, gaming laptops, Pico projectors, etc.

Mini LED technology will compete with OLED technology

With sizes of about 100-200μm, Mini LED chips can made into lightweight products through Chip Scale Package (CSP) technology. Mini LED technology will enable features like high resolution, low power, and high brightness, so the pixel pitch will be reduced and the number of LED chips will be largely increased. In addition, light sources using Mini LED technology will have lighter and thinner structure in the product design, and can also provide better contrast and better wide color gamut under local-dimming condition.

Supply chain of Mini LED

Based on the production process of Mini LED products, companies in supply chain mainly include sapphire PSS substrate suppliers, LED epitaxial wafer suppliers, LED packaging companies, soft and hard substrate suppliers, SMT companies, TFT backplane suppliers and drive IC suppliers, etc. Among these companies, the development of Mini LED technology will focus on the production capacity of 6-inch PSS, mass production capacity of chips, application of soft substrate in packaging, and the design of backlight module.

On the application side, Mini LED backlight products have a chance to be introduced into smartphones due to the tight supply of AMOLED panel. Smartphone vendors other than Samsung and Apple may face insufficiency of OLED panel supply. In order to achieve product differentiation, Mini LED chips may be combined with flexible substrates to become a self-emitting light source, which enables features like curved and high-resolution. In terms of the supply chain, AOT, a packaging company will collaborate with Innolux, a panel maker to jointly develop Mini LED backlight solutions for smartphones.

As for application in the TV market, high-end LCD TVs may also adopt Mini LED solutions in order to compete with OLED products. In addition to replacing the backlight modules, Mini LED will enable the development of thinner and lighter products, high dynamic HDR products, and will improve the performance of WCG. Regarding the supply chain, AOT and Innolux will jointly develop Mini LED backlight solutions for TVs. In addition, for applications in notebook and display market, Lextar and AU Optronics will jointly develop Mini LED solutions for self-emitting light source.

The following table shows the detail of Mini LED technology supply chain related to Taiwanese manufacturers:     

Technology barriers of Mini LED

Currently, there are still technical barriers for Mini LED. For example, the yield rates of chips and 6-inch PSS Nanoimprint Lithography need to be improved, the equipment for SMT-process is not precise enough, UPH and yield rate…These are the bottlenecks for the development of Mini LED, resulting in higher costs and fewer applications in products.

The Micro LED technology is not mature yet, while the OLED technology has higher penetration in the market, so Mini LED technology will become the key to next-generation displays. The most important factor for commercializing Mini LED technology will be accelerating the technology development and reducing costs.

(By Simon/LEDinside)

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