Kateeva Still in the IJP Game: Wins Order at Tianma TM17

Published July 27, 2020

A recent article published in TheElec reported that Kateeva’s presence in the display inkjet printing market has declined and that the company has not won any new orders from panel makers in years. These statements are however incorrect. Kateeva is still a dominant player in the IJP market and our analysis published in the DSCC’s Quarterly Display Capex and Equipment Market Share Report show that Kateeva recently won ½ G6 tool orders at Tianma TM17 and continues to be the supplier of record for most mobile OLED customers. The company had won business at BOE B12 and also has orders to fill at Visionox V3.

There has been a lot of speculation about Kateeva’s future after the company lost the Gen 8.5 QD and TFE IJP business at Samsung Display’s Q-1 fab to SEMES. The loss was not due to inferior technology but likely due to a combination of factors including Samsung’s increasing emphasis on working with Korean equipment suppliers. SDC also insisted on making equipment vendors offer deep discounts to potentially win both current and future large MP orders. In fact, our sources have indicated that Kateeva’s Gen 8.5 QD pixel pilot line system installed in Q-1 still continues to outperform SEMES’s printer, highlighting Kateeva’s superior IJP technology.

Following the loss, Kateeva announced a mass layoff earlier this year, reducing the headcount to ~ 150 employees and the company went through a re-organization of the leadership team. May Su, former CMO and SVP of Sales was appointed as the CEO of the company. The CEO transition was among several executive moves implemented as part of a company restructuring due to a significant change in business conditions. According to May Su, “Kateeva has always stood out for its talent and capacity to innovate novel technology solutions. We’re a smaller company today, but more focused than ever on enabling customers in the display space and beyond with highly differentiated equipment. I’m excited to lead the team.” Given that pixel printing of RGB OLEDs is still few years out, this was probably a correct move for Kateeva to focus on their core strength in TFE and extend that to various applications.

Indeed, under the new leadership, the company is now extending its reach to enable emerging applications like stretchable OLEDs and more. The requirements for stretchable displays are even more complex. For this application, tiny islands of ink must be deposited with extreme accuracy. It’s a natural fit for pixel printing, which is an area of strength for Kateeva. In parallel, the company is also developing a platform targeting glass sizes of Gen8.5 and above (e.g. Gen10.5) for large displays like TVs. Further, with a tighter infrastructure that includes a full-service team in China, the company can move fast to building equipment for manufacturers’ differentiated processes that delivers high-yield, low cost-of-ownership advantages.

That said, Kateeva does face increasing competition with Toray, SEMES and LG PRI in the TFE market and Panasonic/Screen, TEL and SEMES in the pixel printing market. Kateeva has historically enjoyed first mover advantage and will continue to count on innovation to beat their competitors.

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Written by

Sid Mohan