Fans of the strong black levels, wide contrast and vivid colors produced by 4K OLED televisions might be pleased to learn that the production velocity is ramping up quickly, which should help expand global availability while bringing more affordable price points in the years ahead.

Sales of televisions based on organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology continue to expand the format’s still somewhat small comparative global market share, according to a report released Friday by LG Display, the flat-panel display panel manufacturing subsidiary of South Korea-based LG.

The company’s television marketing arm LG Electronics, along with OLED panel customers like Sony, B&O, and brands outside of North America including Philips, Toshiba, Metz, and others, have been pushing the technology to higher-end customers interested in adopting the best picture quality and thinnest form factors available.

OLED televisions provide panel depths approching near paper thinness and will soon extend into displays on rollable film-like materials. The technology affords very wide viewing angles and is self-emissive, meaning the display produces its own light without the need of a separate LED backlight, like LED-LCD technology.

According to LG Display’s report, global sales of large-size OLED panels exceeded 1.3 million units in the first half of 2018, which more than doubles the sales of 0.6 million units of large-size OLED panels in the first half of 2017.

According to a statement: “The demand for OLED panels is on a sharp increase as a growing number of global TV makers are joining the OLED race by incorporating this next-generation technology into their TV product portfolios.”

Although other manufacturers are moving quickly to begin production of large-sized OLED panels, thus far LG Display remains the sole large-size OLED panel manufacturer in the world. But Chinese display companies are moving quickly to get into the game. As a result, LG Display is now adding and expanding manufacturing fabs to maintain its growth momentum.

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LG said it considers the technology “a future growth engine as well as a display market game changer.”

LG Display said it expects to maximize production efficiency in order to sell more than 2.9 million units of large-size OLED panels this year compared to 200,000 units in 2013 and 1.7 million units in 2017.

“Based on the trend of rapidly growing sales, the company anticipates that its large-size OLED business will turn to profitability within the year,” the company said.

According the report, LG Display will produce 130,000 OLED input sheets per month, which is nearly double the current 70,000 sheets per month being churned out at its 8.5th generation OLED production facilities in Paju, Korea, once it starts mass production in the latter half of 2019 at its 8.5th generation OLED production facility in Guangzhou, China. That facility is currently under construction.

In addition, a 10.5-generation production facility currently under construction in Paju to manufacture LED LCD displays will be used for OLED as well, LG Display said, to further add to its production capacity of large-sized OLED panels.

“Many global TV brands have been selecting OLED technology, recognizing its differentiated value, and thus OLED TVs are leading the premium TV market,” Yong-Kee Hwang, LD Display president and head of the TV Company said in a statement releasing the volume numbers. “LG Display will pioneer the future TV market by continually developing differentiated products that exceed customer expectations and by responding to the sharply increasing demand for OLED TV through active investment in production capacity.”

The drawback to OLED displays is that they are prone to image retention, particularly at high brightness levels, which is a problem the world of television development focused on driving better and better levels of high dynamic range (HDR). The aspirational brightness levels for HDR displays are in the neighborhood of 10,000 nits, which is impossible for OLED technology at this time.

But today’s 4K OLED displays achieve low levels of black level that preserves visible fine details in almost perfect black shadowed areas, like nothing else available today, leaving consumers to choose between OLED (ideal for dark-room viewing) or new full-array LED-LCD TVs with advanced local dimming that can achieve close to OLED black levels with peak brightness levels that can be multiple times higher, and ideal for viewing in rooms with higher amounts of ambient light.

LG must move quickly in ramping up OLED supply as advancements are coming rapidly in the fields of quantum dot, and MicroLED displays, both of which will someday offer self-emissive panels with black levels and peak brightness to rival both OLED and LED-LCDs.

LG and arch-rival Samsung are among the display manufacturers working feverishly to deliver MicroLED displays for future home theater applications that will make possible screen sizes exceeding 100-inches with flat-panel brightness and black level.

Once perfected, manufacturing costs are expected to ramp down quickly, while power and light efficiency could set new high standards. But this appears still to be a few years off.

Samsung, which is a leading producer of small-sized OLED panels used in devices like mobile hand-held devices and instrument displays, is also at work developing hybrid QLED (quantum dot) and OLED displays.

 

By Greg Tarr

 

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