OLED is a next-generation display technology that is replacing LCD displays in several markets, such as small displays for mobile applications, TVs and microdisplays. OLEDs are made from thin films of organic light emitting materials that emit light when electricity is applied. OLEDs have a much simpler structure compared to LCDs and have several advantages over the incumbent technology.
OLED microdisplays vs LCoS microdisplays
OLED microdisplays provide several advantages over the current technology used to make most microdisplays (LCoS) :
- There's no need for an "external" illumination (or backlight)
- A larger color gamut
- Wide viewing angles
- Better contrast
- Faster refresh rate
- Lower power consumption (this depends on the image shown)
- Wide operation temperature range
OLEDs do have some disadvantages, though:
- Somewhat lower lifetime and burn-in
- Lower brightness (although this is improving to the point where OLED microdisplays are very bright)
- Limited suppliers, limited volume and selection, higher price, "immature" technology
Leading OLED Microdisplay makers
There are several OLED microdisplay makers today. The two leading ones seem to be eMagin and Sony. Sony makes several microdisplays for the consumer market - which are mostly adopted as camera EVFs. For example Sony's a7S full-frame mirrorless digital camera uses an XGA OLED EVF.
eMagin's main markets are the defense, industry and medical markets. They are enter the consumer market - aiming to provide better user experience for VR and AR headsets.
Besides eMagin and Sony, there are a several other microdisplays makers - from Europe, China and Korea.
OLED-Info's OLED Microdisplay Market Report
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The latest OLED microdisplays news:
The company's booking in Q4 2019 were a record for eMagin, exceeding $15 million. The company received 80 orders and it has started a new consumer-related AR development project for a next-generation display for a Tier-1 customer.
In January 2019 Taiwan-based INT Tech unveiled its proprietary glass-based high pixel density OLED technology, and the company now announced that its first prototype display was produced and successfully tested.
INT Tech's display is a 0.7" 2,300 PPI real RGB side-by-side AMOLED display. INT Tech says that its technology enables larger displays with higher brightness, lower power consumption and a wider color gamut compared to currently available OLED microdisplays which are produced on silicon.
Panasonic developed HDR 4K VR eyeglasses that utilize Kopin's OLED Microdisplays. The microdisplay-based design enabled Panasonic to offer a smaller and lighter solution compared to current VR headsets that use large (usually around 3" per eye) displays.
Panasonic says that the new eyeglasses provide high-quality images without any screen-door effect. Panasonic is not releasing these as a product yet, but the company says that it will continue to further develop the new VR glasses for new applications.
Kopin Corporation announced that the company developed a new double-stack OLED architecture that enables brighter microdisplays with longer lifetime.
Kopin 1" 2k x 2k OLED Lightning microdisplay
Last week Kopin announced a new 1.3" 2560x2560 OLED microdisplay, and the company now reveals that this display uses the new double-stack architecture and achieves brightness of over 1,000 nits. Kopin also says that this display was co-developed with Panasonic and Lakeside Optoelectronic.
OLED-Info's foldable, flexible, VR/AR, transparent, microdisplays, PMOLED, automotive and graphene OLED market reports updated to January 2020
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Kopin Corporation announced the development of a new OLED microdisplay - a 1.3" 2560x2560 (so-called 2.6K) panel aimed towards next-generation AR/VR/XR applications. This joins Kopin's current OLED microdisplays - the 0.49" 1280x720 panel and the 1-inch 120 Hz 2k x 2k Lightning panel introduced in January 2017.
Kopin 1" 2k x 2k OLED Lightning microdisplay
Kopin, who is a fabless OLED panel maker, began production of its OLED displays with its partner OLiGHTEK in Q2 2018.
In March 2017 OLED maker BOE Technology and OLED microdisplay maker OLiGHTEK announced a new $170 million joint-venture to produce OLED microdisplays for the consumer VR and AR markets
Once complete, BOE's fab will have the largest capacity in the industry - but this is not enough for BOE. Yesterday it was reported in Chinese media that BOE plans to build a second, larger OLED microdisplay fab in Yunnan. BOE will invest $257 million while a state-owned development group will invest $28 million. BOE will also raise $200 million from external sources. Total investment in the new fab will total $486 million.
The first order is a follow-on order for $4.3 million in connection with the U.S. Army’s Enhanced Night Vision Goggle – Binocular (ENVG-B) program - which is expected to result in more orders as this is a multi-year program. The second order if from a major defense contractor (eMagin did not detail further) - and worth $5.6 million.
The Fraunhofer first demonstrated its bi-directional OLED microdisplays in 2009 - these display use photodetectors embedded between the OLED pixels to enable unique applications such as eye-tracking and more.
The Fraunhofer now suggests a new use for such displays. The BiClean project looked into the possibility of embedding bi-directional OLED microdisplays in solar panels or pipes, to detect contamination in early stages. The display project light at different colors, and the photodetectors can sense the surface status in real time - and so it is possible to know whether it is necessary to clean the surface.
OLED microdisplay maker eMagin reported its financial results for Q3 2019. Revenues were $7.9 million (up from $6.9 million a year ago) and operating loss was $0.4 million (down from $1.3 million in Q3 2018).
eMagin says that these financial results present a significant improvement, with the second highest quarter revenues in the Company's history. The company demonstrated significant improvement in yield and throughput as production volumes increased over 50% from the second quarter.