In March 2017 Konica Minolta and Pioneer announced that the two companies are set to merge their OLED business unit, and on June 1st the new 50:50 joint venture, called Konica Minolta Pioneer OLED, was officially established.
Konica Minolta says that the new company will take charge of all business and product planning, product development, production technology development and marketing functions of both companies' OLED lighting business to drive its initiatives.
The new company (which was launched with an initial capital of 490 million yen (about $4.4 million) 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 focus will be on automotive lighting - in addition to the existing OLED lighting fields of indicators, advertisement, beauty and medical lighting. 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.