Olum Material to develop 8.5-Gen FMM unit-cell masks

Korea-based OLUM Material announced that it is starting to develop fine metal masks (FMM) for 8.5-Gen (2200x2500 mm) OLED production. Current FMM technologies are limited to 6-Gen substrates (1500x1850 mm).

Olum Material unit cell FMM photo

As demand for larger mobile OLED displays, for laptops, tablets and monitors is on the rise, OLED makers aim to start making these panels on larger substrates. Samsung Display is considering, according to reports, a 8.5-Gen AMOLED fab dedicated for laptop and IT displays.

Philoptics launches a new project to develop innovative FMM masks built using Electro forming

Korea-based optical equipment maker Philoptics announced that it raised around $3.5 million that will be dedicated to the development of FMM technologies for OLED production. The company aims to raise a further $8.6 million by the end of the year to continue the development.

Philoptics will use the funds to finalize the development of 6-Gen FMM masks and build a pilot production line for these masks. Philoptics FMM production uses electro forming, where an invar is plated on a patterned substrate. The company says that using this method the FMM masks are thinner compared to other technologies which can increase the possible OLED resolutions under production.

OLUM Material launches its unit-cell FMM technology, to increase OLED production process efficiency

Korea-based OLUM Material announced a new FMM technology for OLED production, which the company refers to as Unit-Cell FMM, which enables high-efficiency deposition (and patterning) of evaporated OLED materials.

Olum Material unit cell FMM photo

The basic idea is to use a small FMM unit in front of every display panel, rather than a large FMM in front of the entire substrate. A large mask is useful for very fast production, but the large masks tend to sag and deform and so FMM production is limited in size.

V-Technology to start producing next-generation OLED fine metal masks, acquires OLED lighting maker Lumiotec

V-Technology announced that it is establishing a new organic electronics subsidiary that will develop a next-generation OLED deposition technology that V-Technology refers to as fine hybrid mask (FHM). Total investment in this new company is estimated at 5 billion Yen ($46 million USD) for the next 2-3 years. The facility is scheduled to be completed in August 2018 and V-Technology will start shipping mask samples in October 2018.

V-Technology FHM mask demonstration (Feb 2018)

V-Technology's FHM is based on an electroforming method and the masks have a non-tension structure. V-Technology says that the total mask weight will be one tenth of current regular FMM masks, which will lower bending dramatically. V-Technology's already demonstrated an FHM that achieves 738 PPI.

CPT and imec demonstrate an 1250 PPI OLED patterned using a photolithography process

Taiwan-based Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT), in collaboration with European research institute imec (in the framework of the Holst Centre collaboration) have demonstrated an ultra-high resolution OLED display that was patterned using photolithography - without the need for an FMM (metal mask). A photolithography process offers a high aperture ratio, large substrate sizes and good yield control.

FMM-free photolithography-made OLED prototype (CPT + imec)

The prototype display that was demonstrated is a passive display with a 1400x1400 resolution (or 1250 PPI!) of side-by-side orange and green OLEDs. imec reports that preliminary lifetime investigation shows operation of each color after patterning for a few hundred hours at more than 50% of the original brightness.

AP Systems achieves 1000 PPI with new FMM technology

At the iMID 2017 conference in Korea, AP Systems announced that it realized high density OLED evaporation using new FMM technologies. By adopting ultra-short pulse laser (USPL), AP Systems achieved a 1,000 PPI. Changing the pin-hole shapes, the company says this technology can even reach 1,170 PPI.

AP Systems 1000 PPI slide (IMID 2017)

High PPI OLEDs are especially important for VR applications, which require much higher pixel densities as the display is used very close to the eye. In May 2016 Samsung demonstrated a 5.5" 3840x2160 - which reaches 806 PPI, and according to reports Samsung were able to produce a 1,200 PPI AMOLED in March 2017.

IHS: the AMOLED FMM market will reach $1.2 billion in sales in 2021

Analysts from IHS say that as AMOLED displays continue to replace LCD displays and the AMOLED market is growing quickly - the market for fine metal mask (FMM) components will also experience fast growth in coming years.

AMOLED FMM revenue forecast (2017-2022, IHS)

IHS sees the FMM market in 2017 generate $234 in revenues. The market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38% until 2022 - to reach $1.2 billion. IHS says that FMM production is a challenge and FMM technology has become a bottleneck as display resolution is increasing and the number of FMM suppliers is limited. The leading producer is Dai Nippon Printing, and the company's FMM masks are using to produce the majority of AMOLED displays.

Dai Nippon Printing to supply FMM masks to BOE Display

According to ET News, Japan's Dai Nippon Printing (DNP) has terminated Samsung's exclusivity for the company's fine metal masks (FMM) products. DNP is now offering its masks to other OLED makers, and have already signed up BOE Display as a customer.

DNP has advanced its FMM technology, and is now able to produce masks with high resolution - enough to create QHD (2560x1440) smartphone displays. BOE's current masks only enable it to produce FHD OLEDs, and it will now upgrade its production to higher-end displays using DNP's masks.

Samsung's Gen-7 A4 flexible OLED line to be ready by Q2 2018

According to reports from Korea, Samsung has started construction of a new flexible OLED fab, which will be called the A4 line. This will be Samsung's first Gen-7 line as the company is aiming to expand its technology gap over its upcoming OLED competitors who are all building Gen-6 line.

A Gen-7 line substrate is 1870x2200 mm in size - as opposed to 1500x1800 mm for Gen-6. This means that you can produce more displays per substrate and price per screen is lower. Scaling up evaporation OLED production is not so easy, but it seems that Samsung managed to solve its technologies hurdles - mainly the FMM metal masks and the LTPS annealing process.