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Management Report

Management reports, briefs and video-clips issued by Samsung Economic Research Institute

AMOLED Industry

AMOLED Industry

PARK Sung-Bae

Jan. 7, 2011


Welcome to our video program. I’m Sung-Bae Park from the technology and industry department.

Before we begin, I want you to pick up your cell phone, turn on the screen and look at it from the front. Then twist your wrist slightly. If the brightness or contrast does not change, it’s an AMOLED screen.

An AMOLED panel generates light by itself and is a display device for smartphones and tablet PCs. Let’s find out what it is and how it works.

AMOLED is short for Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode. It is a display technology in which organic compounds form the electroluminescent material. The advantages of this kind of display include the fact that it does not lose color when viewed in bright sunlight, provides high refresh rates, and consumes less power.

With so many advantages, the popularity of AMOLEDs has soared. Although AMOLED smartphone panels are 80% more expensive than LCD panels, demand for them continues to rise.

According to studies, market size for AMOLED panels used for mobile devices including smartphones is expected to grow to US$10.4 billion by 2015, while the market size for laptop and tablet PC AMOLED panels is forecast to grow to US$6.8 billion. Market size is going to expand further once AMOLED TVs start to appear in 2012.

In fact, AMOLED technology’s range of applications is broad. When light-emitting diodes are applied to flexible materials like plastic, rather than rigid glass, AMOLEDs can provide flexible displays that can be bended, rolled and stretched back.

AMOLEDs can also be applied in transparent displays, just like the fictional ones in the movie “Minority Report.” With transparent displays, you can exchange information on any glass surface.

At present, Korean companies are leaders in the AMOLED industry. Samsung Mobile Display saw its AMOLED products reach mass production for the first time in the world in February 2007, and accounts for 98% of the global market as of 2010. LG Display also set up mass production and plans to roll out AMOLED products from 2011.

Meanwhile, their Japanese and Taiwanese counterparts are struggling to catch up. Because AMOLED production involves delicate and precise adjustments that require the expertise that comes from experience, it is more difficult for latecomers to expand their market presence.

In addition to the panel market, Korean companies are also doing well in developing manufacturing equipment and materials. Japanese company Tokki initially supplied 100% of Korea's evaporation equipment for AMOLED production, but Korean panel makers and equipment makers are now cooperating to develop the equipment starting with the 5.5 generation. The materials sector has long been a traditional stronghold of the Japanese and Europeans which they have controlled with their superior patents and experience. This has been changing as Korean companies break into the AMOLED material market. One Korean company, for example, has recently succeeded in securing a patent for blue fluorescent material, which requires a high level technology for production.

Can Korean makers maintain their grip on the AMOLED industry going forward? The answer is they can’t afford complacency. New technologies are popping up everyday in manufacturing processes and materials. Once oxide semiconductor technology becomes widespread, the crystallization process using laser beams will become a thing of the past. On the upside, new technologies also help cut production costs for AMOLED panels, even as they reduce barriers to entry and make it easy for new comers to compete in the market.

Accordingly, Korean companies need to get their hands on new technologies before others do to maintain their dominance in the next-generation display market represented by AMOLED and flexible displays. And they should brace for looming patent disputes involving core materials like RGB OLED as new technologies depend more on materials rather than process and devices.

In fact, it was Japanese makers that initially geared up for the AMOLED business in the early 2000s, in the belief that “Japan would be the only supplier.” Korean companies, however, exerted an all-out effort to move ahead of their Japanese counterparts. Their continuous efforts have paid off in helping to establish Korea as a display powerhouse.

Thank you for watching. I’m Sung-Bae Park.

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