DSCC’s UTG vs. CPI Foldable Smartphone Forecast

Published July 13, 2020

We were recently asked for our foldable UTG vs. CPI forecast by Bloomberg Korea so I put together the following chart. As indicated, while CPI led in 2018 and 2019, UTG is expected to lead from 2020. The gain by UTG is a result of Samsung adopting it in the Z Flip and the Z Fold 2 and we expect future Flip and Fold devices to continue using UTG. The Z Flip will be the highest volume foldable product in 2020 and we expect the Z Flip 2 and Z Fold 3 to compete for the best-selling product in 2021. Importantly, today, UTG capacity is constrained by Samsung Display’s glass processing (cutting/chemically treating) supplier Dowoo Insys. Samsung Display has made a big investment in Dowoo Insys and Dowoo Insys will be more than tripling capacity over the next 2 years. I will be sharing the unyielded and yielded UTG capacity outlook in my foldable talk at the SID/DSCC Business Conference. This data is important as it limits the upside to the foldable market given the #1 brand and panel supplier are constrained by the supply of this component.

Source: DSCC

UTG offers increased hardness at reduced thickness and gets closer to the glass feel users are used to in their smartphones. UTG is less likely to produce a visible seam, but the hard coat it requires for scratch resistance is vulnerable to forming a visible seam. Colorless polyimide (CPI) is a remarkable material that offers improved hardness over other films, excellent transparency and has shown better impact resistance than UTG. It is also the preferred solution for outfolding due to its elongation advantages over UTG. CPI supply is not constrained today and I will present our latest CPI supply/demand forecast at the conference.

Leading UTG supplier SCHOTT and leading CPI supplier Kolon will also be presenting in this session and will provide their latest developments and outlook for the cover window market. To register, please visit http://displayweek.org/2020/Attendee/Registration.aspx.

Interestingly, Samsung Electronics is reportedly looking for their own UTG processing supplier given the importance of UTG supply, the fact that it is constraining their foldable output and its impact on overall display and phone costs. While other panel suppliers and brands struggle to find an alternative UTG processing supplier to Dowoo Insys which is exclusively serving Samsung Display, the interest remains high at Samsung Electronics as well as other brands and panel suppliers. While Samsung Display is gearing up to supply Chinese smartphone brands with foldable panels using CPI and maintaining UTG exclusivity for the Galaxy brand, there is strong interest in China for UTG as well. We do eventually expect at least one product from China to offer UTG, we only forecast 1 below, and we believe Apple’s eventual foldable products will include UTG from Corning. As a result, we show the UTG share remaining high and may be under-stated if other companies can figure out how to handle, process and treat UTG which can be quite fragile given thicknesses as low as 30µm. We explain the Dowoo Insys process in our annual foldable report which can be found at: https://www.displaysupplychain.com/report/2020-foldable-display-technology-and-market-report

Other companies working on UTG processing include 3CONY, JNTC, Phoenix, QRS, Joongwoo M-Tech, UTI, Chemtronics and Abrisa. Asahi, Corning and NEG are also working on UTG forming. Equipment supplier LPKF signed a distribution agreement with NEG regarding its laser processing technology which only processes the fold area and would allow for thicker glass to be used reducing the handling issues associated with UTG. There is clearly a lot of activity in this space and we encourage you to attend the upcoming SID/DSCC Business Conference if you would like more info.

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Written by

Ross Young