MicroLED displays on verge of market lift-off, says report

February 16, 2017 // By Peter Clarke
The market for microLED displays is likely to start in 2018 and grow fast but must first overcome some remaining challenges and then establish a supply chain, according to Yole Developpement (Lyon, France).

Unlike OLED, microLED is conventional gallium-nitride LED technology but the display is manufactured monolithically and total brightness than can be 30 times that of OLED products and similarly offers higher efficiency in terms of lux per watt. Initial success could be found in smartwatches, according to Yole, and this could accelerate technology and supply chain maturation, thereby allowing microLED to become competitive against OLED in high-end TVs, tablets and laptops.

Although less disruptive for those applications, microLED would still bring the best of OLED and LCD together. Yole's sister company KnowMade has identified more than 1,570 patents filed and granted in the microLED field during the 2000 – 2016 period.

In the most aggressive scenario developed by Yole analysts, the market for microLED displays will start in 2019 and reach 330 million units by 2025. The use of microLED displays in smartphones is not expected to start until 2021 but would quickly exceed 50 percent of the market, according to Yole's forecast.

Micro-light emitting diodes or microLED are an emissive display technology that offers high contrast, high speed, and wide viewing angle. They could also offer wider color gamut, orders of magnitude higher brightness, reduced power consumption and improved lifetime over OLED displays. In addition, microLEDs allow the integration of sensors and circuits, enabling thin displays with embedded sensing capabilities such as fingerprint identification and gesture control.

In 2016 Sony produced a LED video display where traditional packaged LEDs are replaced by microLEDs. However, the big consumer application could come in the form of smartwatches, propelled by Apple which notably acquired startup Luxvue in 2014.

MicroLEDs could also eventually dominate augmented and mixed reality (AR/MR) displays thanks to their unique ability to deliver both the brightness and low power consumption required for the application.

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