Spotlight on Jade Bird Display: Interview with CEO Qiming Li
SM: Qiming, it is my pleasure to meet you virtually. Could you please introduce yourself and Jade Bird Display (JBD)?
QL: Nice to meet you Sid. I am Qiming Li, Founder, CEO & Chairman of Jade Bird Display (JBD). JBD is headquartered in Hong Kong and was founded in 2015. Since then we have been focusing on developing the smallest, brightest, and most efficient microLED based microdisplay panels. We are an integrated design manufacturer (IDM) with a pilot fab in Shanghai, China. We have about 140 employees worldwide with 100+ scientists and engineers in Shanghai.
JBD’s CEO Qiming Li
SM: Thank you Qiming. JBD’s microLED based microdisplays have been making quite a buzz for the last few years. What would you describe as JBD’s core expertise?
QL: Our core expertise is large scale monolithic hybrid integration for fabricating microLED based microdisplays. We bond the LED Epi wafer and silicon IC backplane at the wafer level to provide a true hybrid (III-V bonded to Si) monolithic integration process. We grow the LEDs on their native substrates- blue & green on sapphire, red on GaAs and implement high precision lithographic processed to define the emitters and pixel optics. We believe this monolithic hybrid integration is the only viable solution for high pixel density applications with pixel pitch less than 5 micrometers. Mass transfer process is not a viable option at this size (< 0.5”) and resolution.
JBD’s Wafer Level Monolithic Hybrid Integration of MicroLEDs and Backplane
SM: What is JBD’s value proposition and differentiation when compared to other competitors in the microdisplay space?
QL: Products wise, microLED based microdisplays beats microOLEDs in terms of maximum brightness. As you know, brightness is extremely important for AR applications. We have demonstrated 5 million nits with our green microdisplays. DLP microdisplays are expensive and are quite large in size due to the optics required for collimation. MicroLED displays win on brightness and compact size and we provide the brightest and smallest panel. We will be launching a new 0.13” microdisplay product in Q4 this year with VGA resolution with a pixel pitch of 4 microns. Technology wise, we are the top leading player in microLED based microdisplays. Our differentiation lies in large scale monolithic hybrid integration and proprietary pixel optics design. We grow the LEDs on their native substrates as supposed to Silicon and hence we can leverage a mature process that the LED industry has been using for years.
JBD’s 0.13” Microdisplay
SM: What role and positioning in the microLED supply chain is JBD playing? Will you be focused on licensing technologies and/or involved in volume manufacturing?
QL: We will continue to be an IDM and we don’t license our IP. We strive to supply our products to the entire industry.
SM: Can you discuss JBD’s IP positioning?
QL: We believe we have the largest number of patents in the microdisplay segment with 111 patents pending and granted. We plan to add another 30-40 applications by the end of this year. Our patents cover microdisplays structures, IC backplane, pixel level optics, full color displays, EQE improvement etc.
SM: Can you discuss who your collaborators and customers are?
QL: I can’t talk about our customers due to the NDA agreements, but our customers include large companies that work on AR. We collaborate with a few waveguide companies and few optical companies that make the display modules.
SM: JBD has released 0.31” 5000 DPI monochrome microLED panels to the market. What is the price of the display and how has the adoption been? Have you been able to accomplish high yields?
QL: The 0.31” product that is available now is more of what we call samplers. They still need controllers to drive them. The 0.13” product that is upcoming in Q4 will be a plug and play type that can be driven with an MCU. The price depends on volume. At higher volumes, i.e. millions of units per year, we will be able to price our panels in tens of dollars per panel. Our current yields at wafer level for display chips is adequate for applications that are not price sensitive. Our yield improvement program will deliver greater than 80% yielded chips per wafer which is aligned with the timelines for launch of consumer AR products by our customers.
SM: Can JBD handle high volumes or do you have to expand significantly? Can you tell us what your capacity is?
QL: For the 0.13” product, we can currently produce 250K panels/month. Our capacity will double by the end of 2021 and reach 2M panels/month by 2023.
SM: Can you comment on the microLED chip size and efficiency? Are you able to maintain the efficiency at those dimensions?
QL: We are usually working with pixel pitch sizes less than or equal to 5 microns. For example, the 0.31” microdisplay product that we currently have has a pixel pitch of 5 microns. We must accommodate our pixel optics such as lenses, reflectors in this space and microLED size usually is about 10% of pixel pitch. We are now talking around 1 micron or sub-micron scale. Our current wall plug efficiency (WPE) is 10% for blue, 10% for green and > 1% for red. In addition, for an application like AR, what matters to most customers is the amount of light that is projected within a ± 20 degree cone. This is usually 25% of the WPE. Hence, it is very important to take these factors into account when talking about WPE as these displays are used for imaging with an optical system and not used as illuminators. There is still a long way to reaching theoretical limit of efficiencies and the sidewall issue dominates. We are in the process of improving efficiencies using various strategies.
SM: Where do you see the first adoption of microdisplays: AR? When do you think these displays will hit the market in devices?
QL: Definitely AR- goggles, HMDs and even sports optics such as rangefinders. We think a realistic timeline for sizeable volume is late 2022 to middle 2023. Low volume consumer products could be sooner.
SM: JBD has shown many impressive microdisplay prototypes including the famous 3 million nits display. Can you discuss your roadmap and future products that are in your pipeline? – Size, Resolution, Brightness etc.
QL: Our record now is 5 million nits. AR applications need high brightness and my statement is not at all exaggerated. The system optics is very lossy. A simple rule of thumb is that a 1 million nits from the display is needed to produce thousands of nits of brightness (as seen by the human eye). In terms of products and roadmap, we plan to have 3 sizes: 0.13”, 0.22” and 0.31”. The 0.13” is currently VGA and in 3 years we plan to double the resolution without changing the size of the display. The 0.22” will have 1080P resolution and pixel pitch of 2.5 um. The 0.31” will be used for full color developmental work. We also offer customized resolution to meet the needs of our customers –2K, 4K, 8K; we like to keep pushing the realm of what’s achievable.
JBD’s Microdisplay Product Portfolio
SM: On the topic of future products, all your products are currently monochrome. When do we expect to see JBD’s full color panel to hit the market? How does JBD realize full color-color conversion or stacking?
QL: We can currently provide monochrome- R,G,B and as well as in the UV and IR range. For AR type application, polychrome can be achieved by using R,G,B monochrome panels and combining the light by using a X-cube or using diffractive waveguides. A true RGB microdisplay is challenging to realize within the timeframe the first wave of AR products hit the market. We expect to have a product with decent wall plug efficiency in 2023. We have already shown demos and will continue to show demos in upcoming conferences in 2021. We make polychrome panels by stacking and don’t use QDs. We are confident about delivering polychrome at a 5 micron pixel pitch.
SM: Sounds exciting. Beyond microdisplays, do you have plans of expanding to larger displays?
QL: No, we are 100% focused on microdisplays that are less than 0.5” in diagonal.
SM: Any additional thoughts or comments? If not, I’d like to thank you Qiming for the interview and I wish JBD the best.
QL: Thank you Sid.