OLED Materials:  What Has Changed Since 2011?
Published: July 12, 2012 Category: Advanced Materials OLEDs

The past year has brought big changes to the OLED market.  The technology appears to have finally taken off, and the long-promised potential for OLEDs to make a real impact in the display markets is finally being realized, with Samsung’s Galaxy phones beating out OLED-free Apple iPhones for the first time in 2012.  Samsung has said that it expects to sell 10 million of its latest Galaxy smartphones by the end of June, and most industry estimates, including ours, indicate that a total of over 200 million smart phones with active matrix (AM) OLED displays will be sold this year.

Growing Demand for OLED Panels

But smartphones are, of course, only part of the story.  Increases in demand are happening across the OLED industry, and the sector is booming.   Nearly all segments are growing on a per-unit basis, from passive matrix (PM) OLED displays, to sophisticated AM OLEDs for tablets, computers, TVs, and white-emitting OLED panels for lighting applications. Overall, NanoMarkets predicts that, as a result, the value of OLED materials will grow from about $524 million in 2012 to over $7.4 billion by the end of the forecast period in 2019.

Of that total, the value of core, functional OLED materials – which is to say active layer materials like emitters, hosts, dopants, and hole and electron injection, transport and blocking materials, but excluding electrodes, substrates, and encapsulation materials – will reach nearly $370 million this year, and grow to over $2.9 billion by 2019, corresponding to about 71 and 39 percent of the total OLED materials market, respectively.

This growth will be realized through the following key trends:

·         Phones and tablets: Today, Korean display giant Samsung dominates the OLED market, at least for AM OLED displays, so other panel makers need to get into the mobile computing market to solidify OLEDs as something more than specialty products, and to broaden the customer base for OLED materials.

The good news is that this shift is happening, with Taiwanese OLED makers AU Optronics (AUO) and Chimei Innolux, Chinese OLED maker Tianma, and others hoping to expand production in the near future. There are also persistent rumors that Apple may soon adopt an OLED display, which would greatly expand the addressable display market. 

·         TVs: Second, as we point out in this report, materials suppliers are in need of not only higher unit sales, but also larger average panel sizes, in order to see materials demand rise significantly.  The good news here is that all signs point to the fact that the next “big things” in OLED displays will provide just that. 

Larger-area OLED TVs from Samsung and rival Korean display maker LG Display are, at last, coming on the market in 2012. If the industry can both meet its cost goals and successfully convince consumers of the value of OLED TVs, they are poised to generate significant revenues from material sales in the coming decade.

·         Lighting: The other big news in OLEDs is the steady, if sometimes disappointingly slow, progress of OLED lighting – another market with a potentially large panel area that will translate into high material demand. 

This market is also finally seeing the beginning of a real commercialization trend.  Hardly a month goes by without another luxury luminaire, designer kit, or OLED lighting installation project announced or launched, and NanoMarkets believes that the next three or four years will be a critical manufacturing (and market) development phase in advance of real growth, which will start to occur in about 2015 – 2016.  

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