TrendForce’s latest report, “AMOLED Technology and Market Status”, reveals that OLED, the next generation of digital displays, has not only taken hold of the smartphone market but is also beginning to make its move into other applications. Organic OLED materials are the core of the industry supply chain, accounting for 23% of the cost of making smartphone panels. The global value of OLED materials is estimated to reach US$2.23 billion in 2022, with a YoY growth rate of 30% due to the increasing penetration rate. Manufacturers’ support is expected to drive production values to reach US$3 billion by 2025.
OLED components can be made using either polymers or small-molecule materials. While polymers have lower efficiency, combining them with printing technology can improve their lifespan and uniformity. Small-molecule materials have higher brightness and purer color, making them suitable for larger-generation OLED production. They are limited to FMM and vapor deposition machines.
The production of OLED components begins with synthesizing intermediates from raw monomers. The intermediates are then processed to become precursors before finally being sublimated and purified into terminal OLED materials.
An increasing Number of Chinese Manufacturers Entering the OLED Market
Chinese manufacturers such as Jilin OLED Material, Ruilian New Materials, Aglaia Tech, and Shenzhen Mason supply intermediates, with a gross margin of about 10-20 percent. Manufacturers produce terminal materials via sublimation and purification, and these materials maintain their structure throughout subsequent production, which makes them trade secrets. After sublimation, the purity of these materials is expected to be very high, enabling gross margins of up to 60-70 percent.
The technology and patents are mainly concentrated among a few foreign manufacturers, but an increasing number of Chinese manufacturers are entering the market.
Apart from two electrodes, the structure of an OLED component consists of organic light-emitting materials, including the main host (light-emitting layer), guest material (dopant), and functional layers (with electron or hole transport properties).
Innovative Technologies to Boost OLED Expansion in the Display Industry
Major manufacturers of red OLEDs include DuPont and LG Chemical, while Samsung DSI and Merck mostly produce green OLEDs. UDC has a monopoly on red and green phosphorescent dopant materials. Blue light-emitting materials used to be primarily supplied by Idemitsu Kosan and Merck, but LG’s next-generation OLED evo TV uses deuterium-based blue-emitter materials supplied by DuPont and LG Chemical to improve efficiency.
TrendForce predicts that the demand for OLED components will shift from folding smartphones to smart wearables, IT, and automotive applications, which will require more stringent requirements.
Panel manufacturers such as LG, Samsung, and BOE are competing for priority for the Tokki G8.7 evaporation machine to expand their applications.
More innovative technologies, such as Samsung’s vertical evaporation, eLeap lithography, and printing processes to improve the aperture ratio, will help push the expansion of OLEDs in the display industry. The entry of more Chinese manufacturers into the market will also make costs more competitive.
Besides established manufacturers like Tokuyama, Idemitsu Kosan, and LG, Chinese manufacturers are also beginning to enter the market to supply functional layers, such as Laite’s Red Prime. Samsung and UDC are planning to commercialize blue phosphorescent materials in 2024 in order to address the lifetime issues of blue OLEDs.
As OLED technology continues to grow and expand into new applications, the demand for OLED materials is set to rise. The manufacturing process for OLED components is complex, with intermediates and terminal materials playing key roles in the production process. With Chinese manufacturers entering the market and increasing competition, costs are becoming more competitive. Innovations such as vertical evaporation and printing processes are also driving the expansion of OLEDs in the display industry. With market trends shifting towards wearables, IT, and automotive applications, the future looks bright for OLED materials.
It’s worth noting that OLED technology is constantly evolving, and new developments in the field can have a significant impact on the market and production processes. It may be worth keeping an eye on emerging trends and updates in the OLED industry to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements.