LG Display (LGD) intends to independently develop a shadow mask for OLED panels. The mask is an important part that determines the resolution of the panel. The technical threshold is quite high. Samsung Display does not yet have the relevant technology and must rely on Japanese imports.
According to the Korean media The Bell, industry news said that LGD recently ordered a special steel manufacturer to manufacture masked invar (Invar) and tried to develop mask technology to reduce the dependence on foreign imports.
Different from the large-size OLED panel process, small and medium-sized OLED panels must be vapor-deposited with a mask. The more precise the opening on the mask, the higher the resolution of the manufactured panel.
However, the OLED panel masks currently used by the Korean panel factory are all imported from Japan. Samsung monitors that dominate the small and medium-sized OLED panel market are sourcing from Dainippon Printing (DNP), while LGD is ordering from Toppan Printing.
LGD will start mass production of small and medium-sized OLED panels from the E5 production line in the second half of 2017. It will be calculated on the 6th generation line substrate, with a monthly capacity of about 15,000 pieces. In addition, the E6 production line with the same capacity in the second half of 2018 will also be invested. Operation, that is, more than 30,000 pieces of monthly production capacity in two years, the demand for masks will increase.
The industry believes that due to the tight demand for masks in the market in the future, LGD will decide to challenge and try to develop independently.
It is understood that before the end of 2018, the capacity of the mask leader Dainippon Printing has been completely reserved by Samsung monitors. After Samsung Display began to supply Apple OLED panels on a large scale, the supply and demand of masks will be even tighter. If LGD and letterpress can't work together to increase the mask yield, out of stock problems can also occur.
There are also industry believes that LGD is looking at the virtual reality (VR) device market. Because the constant steel ordered by LGD is an essential material for the electroforming process, the mask made by electroforming can exhibit the high resolution required by the VR device.
Invariable steel has a very small coefficient of thermal expansion, also known as Invar, which is not susceptible to temperature expansion and can theoretically produce panels with higher resolution than UHD grades.
However, the masking method printed in Japan is an etching method. When an organic substance passes through the mask, the resolution of the QHD level cannot be exhibited due to the incident angle problem. Therefore, Samsung Display has been working with Korean manufacturers since the years ago to develop masking technology for electroforming, and prepare for the VR era in advance.
LGD's competitive advantage in the small and medium-sized OLED panel business is far behind Samsung, and even the big customer Apple has been snatched away by Samsung. However, if LGD can develop a high-resolution OLED panel for VR devices one step ahead of Samsung, it will have the opportunity to regain market position. Because of the unlimited business opportunities in the VR market after many years, the demand for VR devices will also increase.