In January 2017 we reported that Konica Minolta and Pioneer are set to merge their OLED business unit, and today Konica Minolta officially announced a joint-venture with Pioneer to accelerate automotive OLED lighting.
Konica Minolta and Pioneer will setup a joint venture, which will be called Konica Minolta Pioneer OLED. The new 50:50 JV company will be established in May 2017 with an initial capital of 490 million yen (about $4.4 million) and a focus on OLED lighting for automotive applications.
The new "strategic alliance" will combine KM's roll-to-roll flexible OLED production equipment and technology with Pioneer’s achievement in OLED panel mass-production and market rollout and its car electronics business know-how. The new company will integrate the business and product planning and development from both companies - as well as the marketing functions of Pioneer's and Konica Minolta's OLED lighting business.
The new company will also handle the marketing for other applications - such as Konica Monilta's lighting for indicators and advertisements and Pioneers' applications for the beauty and medical markets. In the medium to long-term, the new company will aim to achieve annual sales of 25 billion yen ($225 million USD).
In March 2014 Konica Minolta announced that it is starting to construct a R2R flexible OLED lighting fab, hoping to start production in the fall of 2014. This fab entered production later than planned, but it has yet to reach real mass production capabilities. Konica invested ¥10 billion (almost $100 million) in this fab, which was supposed to have a monthly capacity of a million panels. KM's fab produces both white and color-tunable flexible panels. Konica Minolta also holds the world's OLED efficiency record with a 139 LM/W panel - but this is a lab result that is not easily transferred to mass produced panels.
Pioneer's Verbatim started to distribute color-tunable panels produced by Mitsubishi and Pioneer back in May 2011 (we posted a hands-on review of one in 2012) - producing using an evaporation process. In early 2014, Pioneer and Mitsubishi Chemical announced that they began to mass produce OLED lighting modules made with the wet coating process - but these were not color tunable panels.
Pioneer and Mitsubishi also developed a color-tunable and dimmable OLED lighting panel produced using Mitsubishi's wet-coating process, and the companies say that this panel can be produced for less than one-third of the cost of OLEDs made with regular evaporation-based production methods.
Mitsubishi and Pioneer established a company (called MC Pioneer OLED Lighting Corporation) to handle sales and marketing of OLED panels, it's not clear what will be the fate of MCPOLC now with the establishment of Konica Minolta Pioneer OLED.