Tech companies racing for micro-LED displays, says TrendForce

April 28, 2017 // By Julien Happich
Following Sony’s introduction of CLEDIS (Crystal LED Integrated Structure) displays and Apple’s acquisition of LuxVue, more technology companies are exploring the possibilities of micro-LED in various display applications.

According to market research firm TrendForce, nearly 100 private companies and research organizations are participating in the development of micro-LED displays. Notable cases include the acquisition of InfiniLED by Facebook’s Oculus and the partnership agreement between Ostendo Technologies and KDX. By entering this field in advance, these companies hope to gain favorable positions in the future.

LEDinside’s research on micro-LED finds that the pioneers Sony and Apple have diverged in application development. Sony focuses on building huge micro-LED display walls, while Apple works on miniature micro-LED screens for its Apple Watch devices.

Other parties that are interested in the technology are looking at augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) as a potential application segment. In the market for smartwatch displays, micro-LED is going to face intense price competition from conventional display technologies. AR and VR, on the other hand, is a blue ocean market with much more possibilities in terms of product design. Hence, companies such as Apple, Oculus and Ostendo consider micro-LED solutions for AR and VR devices.

Compared with other display technologies, micro-LED consumes less power and can scale down significantly to make displays thinner than ever. Apart from these advantages, micro-LED also performs impressively in resolution, luminance and in other image quality indicators. For example, the viewing angle of a micro-LED display is not constrained by being under the sunlight. In the future, micro-LED could become a competitive alternative to OLED as its cost gradually comes down.

This is also another reason why developers of micro-LED displays want to enter the VR segment. As for AR, micro-LED also has the potential to surpass traditional display technologies. RGB micro-LEDs could be used in miniature AR projectors to achieve better brightness and even smaller form factors.

However, micro-LED is one of many competing display technologies. For instance, OLED-on-CMOS micro-projection solutions have progressed to reach a pixel density of 3,000 PPI and can be deployed in VR and AR products, albeit with support from other types of optical technologies.

While micro-LED displays can be designed to have extremely high pixel density, the technology still has to mature and the production cost has to be brought down significantly. Then, they will have a chance to become mainstream in different application segments.