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Charles Lee, CEO of PlayNitride, said in a recent interview that the company has secured several strategic investors that are willing to fund the expansion of the company’s production capacity. Hence, mass production of Micro LED solutions is not a slogan, but an imminent reality. Li further stated that the company’s annual revenue will eventually hit the 100 million mark in US dollars.
Presently, the main bottleneck in the development of Micro LED is the low yield rate of the mass transfer process. Although manufacturers in the LED and display industries have unveiled products based on technologies related to Micro LED, the mass production of display panels containing self-emitting Micro LED pixels remains a very difficult challenge. In particular, the production cost of such panels is still too high. However, PlayNitride confidently predicts that Micro LED will experience a cost reduction of as much as 95% within this five-year period.
PlayNitride has stepped up its fundraising efforts this year and is now working with display panel manufacturer AUO to develop automotive products. According to reporting by Digitimes, PlayNitride claims that production costs of Micro LED products will begin to drop rapidly next year, and that the company’s annual revenue will reach around US$30 million. With capital injections from investors, PlayNitride will be able to extend its technological lead over its competitors, widening the gap to around two years. By strengthening its technological capability, PlayNitride can avoid being undercut by rivals and may be able to soon catch up to manufacturers of OLED panels in terms of competitiveness.
Li noted that the funding for the first-phase expansion is now in place, but purchasing and installing new production equipment will take some time. The company now aims to begin actual capacity expansion at the end of this year.
PlayNitride’s strategic investors are highly confident in the expansion plan, which will raise the company’s production capacity to three times of the original. However, this production level is expected to be just sufficient for next year’s demand. Hence, the operational strategy for 2022 is still being discussed internally.
Micro LED panels are very different from other conventional display panels with respect to manufacturing process, so actors across the LED and display supply chains have to collaborate closely with one another to develop this next-generation technology. Although component suppliers and system integrators will need time to communicate amongst themselves, there are already plans to launch commercial Micro LED products next year.
PlayNitride describes its role as a developer of Micro LED display modules, but it recently has committed more resources in designing driver ICs and software than in large-scale production of LED chips. This shift warrants some attention. On the other hand, the possibility of the company becoming a supplier of Micro LED chips should not be discounted. For now, PlayNitride still prefers to work with LED supplier Epistar, which is one of its backers. After all, Epistar has the advantage in the production of epi-wafers.
How PlayNitride operates also demonstrates the importance of cost cutting in the development of Micro LED displays. The company expects the size of its LED chips to shrink by nearly 50% next year, and mass production can be achieved for products sized 30x60μm. Nevertheless, actual progress will depend on successes in testing and adoption by prospective customers.
The size of LED chips can drop to 5μm using the most advanced manufacturing technologies, but attaining a sufficient level of brightness at this size is still an issue. PlayNitride emphasizes that even though its manufacturing process has yet to reach the ideal yield rate, commercial mass production will be attainable soon with the integration of technologies related to mass inspection and repair.
The key indexes of progress such as the utilization rate of the surface of an epi-wafer, the uniformity of the wavelength of LED chips, and the yield rate of LED chips are all rising at the same time. Hence, there is a good chance that Micro LED will be competitive with OLED in five years. However, PlayNitride believes that Micro LED ought to differentiate from OLED in terms of application. The cost of OLED rises dramatically when the size of TVs increases to 80-90 inches or beyond. Here, Micro LED may be more suitable for ultra-large displays.
Currently, there many actors in the LED and display industries engaging in the development of Micro LED products. PlayNitride intends to set itself apart from its competitors by becoming a provider of high-end solutions as well as a leader in setting specification standards.