Gone today, here tomorrow
At this year’s IFA International conference in Berlin, ROB RAIKES of the European Digital Market research company - Meko, asks the question, ‘Where all the OLEDs have gone?’
For the professional annalist and press that attend shows like IFA, it's often what's not shown that’s as interesting as what is.
This year, the question might be: where have all the OLEDs gone? Of course there are OLEDs in new phones and tablets, but unlike in previous years, the likes of Samsung, LG and Sony are not displaying OLED TVs on their stands.
Why? First, the TV business is having a hard time. Although the set makers are supplying the best TVs ever at amazingly low prices, they are not selling enough to make a profit. So at IFA, they want consumers to see today's products, not tomorrow's.
Don't delay your purchase is the message. The second factor is that active-matrix OLEDs have proved very hard to make in large sizes. Problems include how to make the high-performance transistors needed to drive the OLEDs, how to seal the displays against oxygen and water, and how to create the RGB patterns that make up the display matrix.
AMOLEDs up to 15 inches can be made using ‘shadow mask vapour deposition,' but this process doesn't work at larger sizes. Suggestions for alternatives include laser induced thermal imaging (LITI), inkjet printing and nozzle printing. However, there is no agreement
among the companies trying to develop the technology.
This is in sharp contrast to the LCD industry, where everybody uses a very similar production process, resulting in much lower development costs.
Another approach is to use white OLED material and a filter to produce different colours. Unfortunately this increases the power consumption dramatically, while adding cost and complication to the overall device structure, This method has, however, been used to make larger OLEDs by Sony and LG.
A third factor as to why there are no OLED TVs at IFA 2011 is that there are simply not enough factories of enough scale to make large TV panels. Samsung is building a ‘generation 5.5' factory — scheduled to open at the end of 2012 — to make panels up to 55 inches, but these are likely to be expensive. Samsung is also hoping to build a 'G8'
factory to compete with LCDs on price.
So my prediction is that there will be OLED TVs on show at IFA 2012, but at prices that will lead to what my American friends call 'sticker shock' — you want the product, but you gasp at the price tag. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see a gorgeous-looking 55-inch OLED TV from a brand with a fruit-shaped logo…
The huge investments needed and the technical challenges mean that it’s likely to be many years before most of us could afford an OLED TV. So the LCD-makers are right: buy a fantastic LCD TV now, then upgrade in five or six years to OLED.
* This article is reproduced in Gadget courtesy of IFA International, Official daily news source for international visitors at IFA
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