Will Samsung target new applications now that its smartphone OLED lines are under-utilized?

In the past few weeks we heard many reports that following lower than expected OLED orders from Apple (due to disappointing iPhone X sales) Samsung Display has suddenly found itself with under utilized OLED production lines.

Samsung already said that it aims to find new customers for its OLEDs, mostly in smartphone makers in China. Some analyst say however that this won't be so easy as the higher costs of SDC's AMOLED displays deter some of its potential customers, who prefer to opt for lower-cost high-end 18:9 LCDs.

LG Display orders the deposition equipment for its Gen-10.5 line in Paju (P10)

Towards the end of 2015 LG Display announced that it plans to build a new OLED fab (P10) in Paju in a $8.7 billion investment to produce both mid-sized flexible OLED and large-sized OLED TV panels. LGD considered for a while whether this new fab will be based on Gen-8 production or Gen-10.

LG Display production hub in Paju

According to a new report from Korea, LGD has ordered its first batch of deposition equipment for the P10 line, which will be Gen-10.5 (2940 x 3370 mm). The first line will have a production capacity of 30,000 substrates per month, which will greatly increase LGD's total OLED TV production capacity. LGD finished the construction of the building and the fab is expected to be complete in the first half of 2018.

Chinese OLED makers shipped almost 10 million OLED panels in 2017

Market research company Sigmaintell estimates that China-based display makers shipped 9.8 million OLED displays in 2017, mostly for smartphone applications. Everdisplay was the largest producer in terms of units, shipping 3.8 million displays (enjoying large orders from Huawei and Hisense), while Visionox was the top vendor in terms of display area shipped (30,000 square meters, out of a total 78,000 sqm produced in China in 2017).

Everdisplay HQ and 5.5-Gen Fab photo

Looking into 2018, Sigmaintell sees a large increase in production volume in 2018. Visionox landed orders from ZTE and Xiaomi and is expanding its production capacity, and BOE is also expected to increase shipments from its flexible 6-Gen AMOLED fab that will enter full capacity in Q2 2018. Finally, Tianma is also expected to increase production having won orders from Asustek Computer.

Samsung reports a strong quarter, will not be affected by Apple's lower iPhone X sales much, commits to a foldable phone in 2018

Samsung Electronics reported its results for Q4 2017, with a record quarterly profit of $11.2 billion driven by strong demand for memory chips and high-end displays. Samsung Display reports increased OLED shipments for premium smartphones.

Samsung A8 2018 photo

Looking at Q1 2018, SDC says that its OLED business is likely to be affected be declining demand due to seasonality and increased competition from LTPS LCD. For the the whole of 2018, SDC expects OLED to increase its penetration in the smartphone industry, and the company aims to introduce new premium applications such as foldable displays and OLEDs for the automotive market.

Samsung is reconsidering its A5 flexible OLED fab, fears lower smartphone display demand

According to reports from Korea, Samsung Display is reconsidering its planned investment in its A5 flexible OLED production line, due to "growing uncertainties in the smartphone market". Samsung reportedly suspended its equipment orders and its plans to construct the A5 building.

Apple iPhone X side photo

There are several worrying signals in the smartphone industry. Apple is reportedly facing lower than expected demand for its iPhone X (and may halt new OLED orders for its flagship phone in 2018). Smartphone shipments in China decreased 3.1% in Q3 2017 and it is estimated that Q4 have been lower than expected as well.

LGD to start flexible OLED production in its E6 line in Q3 2018

LG Display reported its Q4 2017 financial results. Revenues reached KRW7,126 billion ($6.6 billion USD) - up slightly from Q3 2017 but down 10% from Q4 2016. Net income was KRW 44 billion ($42 million USD, a drop of 91% from Q3 2017 and 95% from Q4 2016).

LGD 88'' 8K OLED prototype photo

Looking back at 2017, LGD says that it solidified its OLED business, increased its annual OLED TV shipments to 1.7 million units and started production of flexible OLEDs at its E5 production line. The 6-Gen E5 line has started mass production in Q3 2017 but will only start to output displays for products that will launch at the end of 2017 - the 6" P-OLEDs used in LG's own V30 and Google's Pixel 2 XL were produced at LG's older and smaller E2 line, and reviewers and consumers alike were disappointed in LG's AMOLED performance. . In August we first reported that LGD is still facing very low yields at its 6-Gen E5 line, but it seems that yields and display quality are improving.

CLSA: BOE to ship 19 million smartphone flexible OLEDs in 2018 and 41 million in 2019

BOE started to produce flexible OLED displays at its first flexible AMOLED line, the Chengdu B7 6-Gen fab, in October 2017. Financial analysts from CLSA say that according to their checks, the ramp-up at the B7 is ahead of schedule, and CLSA expects BOE to ship 19 million smartphone OLEDs in 2018 and 41 million panels in 2019.

BOE Flexible AMOLED prototype photo

CLSA says that major Chinese smartphone makers will launch the first smartphones that use BOE's flexible OLEDs in February and March or 2018. CLSA says it won't be surprised to hear BOE announcing new OLED fab plans soon (in H1 2018).

Sharp confirms its plans to start producing OLED in Q1 2018

Last week we posted on reports from Japan that claims that Sharp aims to begin commercial production of flexible OLED displays for its own smartphones in the spring. Sharp's CEO today confirmed these reports, saying that Sharp will commence production in Q1 2018 and will introduce its new OLED smartphones in June or July of 2018.

Sharp 3.4'' flexible IGZO OLED prototype (Apr 2016)

In October 2016 Sharp announced that it will invest $570 million and build OLED pilot lines at its plants in Osaka and in the Mie Prefecture, with plans to begin (pilot) production in the summer of 2018. If Sharp will indeed begin production by the end of March, it is quite ahead of schedule - although of course it remain to be seen whether they will be able to reach satisfactory yields before the summer.

Sharp plans to begin commercial OLED production at its pilot line in the spring

In October 2016 Sharp announced that it will invest $570 million and build OLED pilot lines at its plants in Osaka and in the Mie Prefecture, with plans to begin (pilot) production in the summer of 2018. According to a new report from Japan, Sharp aims to begin commercial production of flexible OLED displays for its own smartphones in the spring.

According to the new report, Sharp already started to produce sample flexible OLEDs at its Osaka fab. The displays are still not ready for production, though. And in any case these will be very low volume production lines.

eMagin signs an agreement with a US-based chipmaker to support its consumer VR/AR OLED microdisplay scale-up

OLED microdisplay maker eMagin announced that it has signed an agreement with a U.S.-based chipmaker to support mass production of its OLED microdisplays for the consumer AR and VR markets. eMagin did not name its new partner, but it did say that this agreement will help it meet the cost requirements of the high volume consumer segment.

eMagin SXGA OLED-XL microdisplay photoeMagin's new partner will provide backplane and interface design support required by eMagin's customers. eMagin is focused on its 2K direct-patterning OLED microdisplays for the VR and AR consumer markets. The company already signed up several customers, here is the latest agreement announced two months ago.

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