OLED Materials Report Brings New Insight on QD OLEDs

Published October 2, 2018

Sales for OLED stack materials are expected to grow at a 20% annual CAGR from $829 million in 2017 to $2.04 billion in 2022, according to DSCC’s Quarterly OLED Material Report for Q3 2018, written in cooperation with the OLED Association. The report details all aspects of OLED materials, including multiple applications, supplier matrices, and cost comparisons.This quarter’s update includes the first outline of the opportunity for Quantum Dot OLED (QD OLED) products. The report includes a capacity estimate, OLED stack profile, supplier relationships and the resulting material forecasts for QD OLED, as part of the larger view on OLED materials in all applications.

As outlined a few weeks ago in our description of the DSCC Quarterly OLED Supply/Demand and Capital Spending Report, our capacity outlook for OLED for mobile applications has been revised downward, but our outlook for OLED TV capacity has been revised up so that the total OLED capacity is still expected to increase nearly 4x in area terms from 2017 to 2022. As a result of these changes, we now expect that revenues for OLED Materials for TV will surpass those for Mobile applications by 2020, and TV will account for 53% of OLED materials by 2022, as shown below.

OLED Material Revenues by Application

One of the drivers of additional OLED Material revenue growth in the TV application is QD OLED from Samsung. We expect Samsung to start pilot production of QD OLED in 2019 with 5k per month of Gen 8.5, adding a second 5k in 2020, and 30k each in both 2021 and 2022. We recognize that the Samsung QD OLED plans have more than the usual amount of error bar, as the QD OLEDs could be as low as zero and as high as 4-5x our current estimate, depending on whether Samsung can cost-effectively manufacture this product at volume. If Samsung fails to overcome the technology and manufacturing hurdles, they could cancel the project altogether, but if the product is a technology and commercial success, Samsung has the cash to invest in rapid capacity expansion, not only in Gen 8.5 but also potentially in Gen 10.5.

The QD OLED Stack profile shown below illuminates some of the advantages but also the challenges of this product architecture. The two biggest challenges of QD OLED are: 1) getting a good blue OLED, and 2) making the Quantum Dot Color Converter (QDCC).

QD OLED Stack Profile

In making a “good” blue OLED, it is possible that Samsung will require a next-generation blue OLED emitter material such as phosphorescent or TADF, but our sources say that Samsung will start with a fluorescent blue emitter and use two emitting layers as shown. Even with an advanced blue emitter, two emitting layers may be needed. Nevertheless, from the perspective of the OLED stack the QD OLED structure has several advantages over LGD’s White OLED approach:

  • While LGD requires a four sub-pixel structure to add a white sub-pixel to the usual R, G, B in order to boost peak white luminance, we believe that Samsung will have only three sub-pixels. Since all the light comes from blue, any adjustment to the R/G/B mix can be handled with the sub-pixel size.
  • With two emitting layers rather than four, the QD OLED stack has 13 layers, compared to LGD’s WOLED stack of 22 layers. Fewer layers means fewer deposition stages, reducing material cost and (likely) improving yield.

The advantages of the QD OLED in the deposition process might be more than overwhelmed by the challenge of making the QDCC. This graphic from Samsung, built for the LCD counterpart to QD OLED, demonstrates the light management issues that need to be addressed.

Light Management in a QDCC

Because the quantum dots in the QDCC are emitting in all directions, the structure requires a Yellow Reflective Film (YRF) in the back, which lets blue light pass through but reflects green and red light forward. Because quantum dots can be illuminated by ambient light, the QDCC needs a quarter wave plate (QWP) in front to cut off ambient light. Furthermore, as described in last week’s article from the OLED Summit, because the current quantum dots from Nanosys cannot absorb all the blue light, Samsung will use a color filter in front of the red and green sub-pixels to filter out the remaining blue light.

While the QDCC presents a huge challenge for Samsung, the advantage of a simpler OLED stack gives them plenty of room to work with from a cost perspective. We estimate the costs of the blue OLED stack in a QD OLED as only $26.03 per square meter in 2019, compared with $94.91 per square meter for the corresponding White OLED.

Quantum Dot OLED (QD OLED) Unyielded Stack Materials Costs

Because of the simpler OLED structure, QD OLED is a relatively less attractive development for the OLED Materials suppliers. Although it is a growth opportunity for OLED materials, the revenues from QD OLED will be a small fraction of overall OLED material revenues, as shown in the figure below. With our current capacity estimates, QD OLED will represent only 5% of material revenues for TV applications, and less than 3% of revenues for all applications.

Forecast of Material Revenues from QD OLED

The DSCC/OLED-A Quarterly OLED Material Report includes not only QD OLED, but also WOLED for TV, Inkjet Printed Polymer and Small Molecule profiles. The report covers active matrix OLED (AMOLED) for displays, plus passive-matrix OLED for smaller displays and OLED for Lighting applications. Supplier matrices for the main OLED panel makers allow for revenue projections for 20 material suppliers. For more information about the report, please contact Gerry McGinley at 770-503-6318, e-mail gerry@displaysupplychain.com, or contact your regional DSCC office in China, Japan or Korea.

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Written by

Bob O'Brien