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Hype and reality: hopes for smartwatches and beyond must overcome technical and manufacturing challenges - Yole Développement

MicroLED Displays

Product code
EUR 6 490
Automotive Consumer Industrial
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Hype and reality: hopes for smartwatches and beyond must overcome technical and manufacturing challenges.


Micro-light emitting diodes (MicroLED) are an emissive display technology. Just like organic light emitting diodes (OLED), they offer high contrast, high speed, and wide viewing angle. However, they could also deliver wider color gamut, dramatic – orders of magnitude – higher brightness, significantly reduced power consumption and improved lifetime, ruggedness and environmental stability. In addition, microLEDs allow the integration of sensors and circuits, enabling thin displays with embedded sensing capabilities such as fingerprint identification and gesture control.

The first MicroLED commercial product was unveiled by Sony in 2016 in the form of a small-pitch LED video display where traditional packaged LEDs are replaced by microLEDs. The first consumer killer-app could come in the form of smartwatches, propelled by Apple, which invested in the technology by buying Luxvue in 2014. MicroLEDs could also eventually dominate augmented and mixed reality displays thanks to their unique ability to deliver both the brightness and low power consumption required for the application.

Initial success in smartwatches could accelerate technology and supply chain maturation, making microLED competitive against OLED in high end TVs, tablets and laptops. Although less disruptive for those applications, microLED would still bring the best of OLED and liquid crystal displays (LCD) together. Smartphones will be a tough nut to crack and require further technology improvement in the manufacturing and handling of very small microLEDs (< 5 µm). In our most optimistic scenario, the market for microLED displays could reach up to 330 million units by 2025.

MicroLED display volume forecastaggressive scenario Yole report


The science is here, but microLED is an inherently complex display technology with cost drivers different from those of incumbent technologies. The concept is simple: each pixel is constituted of individual microLED emitters. However, at very small dimensions, microLED operation tends to be dominated by nefarious sidewall effects which impact performance. The reported efficiency of microLEDs below 10 µm side length is often 10-20% of larger LED chips or below. At those levels, microLED displays can’t deliver on the key promise of low energy consumption. Solving this issue is a key priority for companies involved microLEDs. Some such as VueReal or Mikro-Mesa have reported significant improvement.

Efficiently manipulating high volumes of microLEDs and positioning them on the backplane is another major area. Assembling a single 4K display would take more than a month using traditional pick and place equipment! Companies such as Apple, X-Celeprint, Playnitride and others have developed massively parallel pick and place technologies that can process tens of thousands to millions of microLEDs simultaneously. However, the handling of the smaller size (up to 10 µm) chips and positioning accuracy needs further work. Alternatively, companies such as VueReal or Rohinni are developing “semi-continuous” processes akin to traditional printing.

In modern displays, dead or defective pixels are not acceptable. Achieving 100% combined yields in epitaxy, chip manufacturing and transfer is nothing short of utopia. MicroLED display manufacturers must therefore develop effective defect management strategies combining pixel redundancies and/or individual pixel repair depending on the characteristics of the display.

Other challenging technology nodes include color conversion, light extraction and beam shaping, all subjects of intense research, licensing and mergers and acquisition activities.

Multiple challenges need to be tackled to realize the microLED display opportunity Yole report


Many startups and large companies are working on microLEDs, from LED makers such as Epistar, Nichia or Osram to display makers like AUO, BOE or CSOT and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Apple or Facebook/Oculus.

Enabling large scale microLED displays requires bringing together three major disparate technologies and supply chain elements: LED, thin-film transistor (TFT) backplane and chip transfer. The supply chain is complex and lengthy compared with that of traditional displays. Each process is critical and managing every aspect effectively will be challenging. No single player can solve all the issues and it seems unlikely that any will fully vertically integrate. Small companies could bring together the different technologies to serve the augmented reality (AR) market, but for high volume consumer applications such as mobiles or TVs, only a strong push from a leading OEM can enable a supply chain. Apple is the most likely candidate with enough leverage and financial strength to bring all partners together. Other candidates include Oculus, which has also invested in microLEDs for AR/mixed reality (MR) applications.

Each participant will attempt to capture as much added value as it can. For LED makers, low defect requirements and high resolution features of microLED means large investments in new clean room and lithography equipment which might be better suited to CMOS foundries. Traditional display makers are used to manufacturing both back and front planes in an integrated fashion and delivering finished panels to OEMs. With microLEDs, they will struggle against becoming component suppliers, only providing a TFT backplane to whichever participant will produce the final display assembly: OEMs or outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) players.

Some companies will benefit from microLED displays independently of how the supply chain is shaped. These beneficiaries include metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) reactor and other LED equipment manufacturers as well as wafer suppliers. For the latter, however, sapphire manufacturers will have to keep an eye on a possible come back of the old LED-on-silicon idea which could have definite advantages in microLED manufacturing.

Example of a possible supply chain Yole report


Understand microLED display technologies:

  • Benefits and drawbacks versus other display technologies
  • Key technology elements and associated challenges and cost drivers
  • Technology roadblocks

Which applications could microLED display address and when?:

  • Detailed analysis and roadmaps for major display applications
  • How disruptive for incumbent technologies?

Competitive landscape and supply chain:

  • Identify the key players and IP owners in technology development and manufacturing
  • Scenarios for the microLED display supply chain
  • Impact on the LED supply chain
  • Impact on the display supply chain
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Scope of the report            p8


Executive summary            p13


Introduction p52


MicroLED displays frontplane & pixel structures        p68

> Backplane and pixel bank structure
> MicroLED display structure: monochrome vs color
> Pixel fill factor and added display functionalities
> Pixel density and pixel pitch
> Subassembly microsystems, tiled arrays
> LED efficiency, brightness
> Pixel size vs. efficiency
> MicroLED driving regime
> Current confinement trenches
> MicroLED efficiency and dimensions


MicroLED displays backplanes        p91

> Passive and active matrix driving
> Emissive display driving
> Thin film transistor backplanes
> Channel materials for microLED displays
> Pixel density and backplane
> Impact on microLED driving and assembly technology


MicroLED epitaxy             p106

> Epitaxy defects and dead pixels
> Wavelength homogeneity and consistency
> Brightness and voltage variations
> Impact on supply chain


Chip manufacturing and singulation p115

> Chip singulation
> Bonding and etching: Apple-Luxvue
> Anchor and breakable tethers: X-Celeprint
> Chip manufacturing
> Impact on supply chain


Transfer and assembly technologies p125


Massively parallel pick and place and printing processes    p127

> Transfer sequences
> Transfer array vs. display pixel pitch
> Throughput and cost drivers
> Edge effects
> Pick and place processes
> Die stabilization, release and selection
> Pick up methods
> Luxvue
> X-Celeprint
> Die encapsulation
> Stretchable film
> Semi-continuous processes
> Fluidic assembly
> Key IP holders and conclusion


Large monolithic microLED arrays            p160

> The challenge for high pixel density
> Full array level microdisplay manufacturing
> Hybridization on CMOS: LETI
> Monolithic integration: Lumiode, eMagin, Osram, NthDegree
> Micro-wire microLED arrays: Aledia
> 3D integration: Ostendo


Light extraction and viewing angles p175

> Die-level beam shaping and extraction
> Array-level beam shaping
> External micro optics
> Viewing angle and power consumption


Color conversion                p183

> Color gamut
> Color conversion
> Phosphors
> Quantum dots
> Benefits and challenges
> Challenges for microLED displays
> QD vs phosphors: summary
> Quantum wells converters


Defect management                p201

> Bad pixels
> Emitter redundancy
> Defect management strategies

Applications and markets for microLED displays        p212

> Epiwafer and transfer cost per application
> MicroLED attributes vs application requirement
> MicroLED application roadmap and SWOT per application
> 2017-2025 microLED adoption forecast


Virtual reality            p224

> The reality-to-virtual-reality continuum
> VR displays: FOV, resolution and pixel density, refresh rates, brightness
> Computing power and bandwidth
> Foveated rendering
> Tradeoffs for the design of a VR headset
> Microdisplays
> MicroLED displays for VR: transfer-based (large displays)
> MicroLED microdisplays


Augmented and mixed reality        p244

> Display requirements
> MicroLED displays for AR and MR
> Comparison of AR displays technologies
> 2017 – 2027 AR/MR market forecast
> Head up displays
> 2020-2027 MicroLED scenario for AR/MR and HUDs


Smartwatches            p253

> MicroLED for smartwatches
> 2017-2025 forecast
> MOCVD requirement
> Transfer Tools requirements


TVs                    p262

> MicroLED vs OLED and QD-LCD
> MicroLED TV panel costs
> Additional challenges for microLED TVs
> MicroLED volume forecast and MOCVD requirements
> Transfer tools requirements
> Alternative transfer and assembly approaches


Smart phones                p273

> Smartphone display requirement
> Is 4K required?
> MicroLED for cell phones: cost
> Status and roadblocks
> 2017-2025 Volume forecast and MOCVD requirements
> Transfer tools requirements


Tablets                    p284

> MicroLED tablet panel costs
> 2017-2025 volume forecast and MOCVD requirements
> Transfer tools requirements


Laptops and convertibles            p289

> MicroLED in laptops
> 2017 -2025 volume forecast and MOCVD requirements
> Transfer tools requirements


Desktop monitors            p296

> 2017-2025 volume forecast and MOCVD requirements
> Transfer tools requirements


Large video displays            p301

> 2017-2025 microLED large video displays


Others                p304


Competitive landscape            p308

> Activity and leading patent holders
> Key players and technology focus
> Significant industry events
> The Apple ecosystem
> Taiwan ecosystem


Supply chain            p317

> Substrate and MOCVD requirements
> Wafer supply
> Epitaxy and wafer processing
> Transfer tools
> Impact on supply chain
> Supply chain scenario
> Discussion


Company presentation        p333


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