A market outlook: Will OLEDs Prevail in 2018 Display Markets?

March 15,2018

OLEDs to Drive 2018 Mobile Display Market Growth while WOLED and QD Compete for TV Display Market Leadership

In 2017, the display market was quite exciting to watch as we witnessed a market shift from liquid crystal displays (LCDs) to organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays in the mobile display market. Many of us wonder whether that shift will accelerate in the mobile display market in 2018, although none of us can answer this question for sure. One thing we can say, however, is that we expect a fierce competition between WOLED and quantum dot technologies in the premium TV market in the year ahead, although WOLED appears to have secured a more favorable position to win.

A number of industry alliances have been formed since LG Display made its first OLED alliance in 2015, and it was very successful growing its number of partners thus far, including premium electronics brands like Sony. On the QD front, the QLED alliance, led by Samsung and backed by Hisense and TCL, has struggled to secure a meaningful footprint in a sluggish premium TV market due to technical challenges and lower levels of consumer acceptance. But this competitive landscape may be shaped differently in 2018 and in the coming years as Samsung looks to reinvigorate its QD TV campaign to target consumers this year. By reinforcing and diversifying its QD TV product lineup, Samsung hopes the QLED Alliance will benefit from increasing consumer demand. As part of this campaign, Samsung recently opened up the 2018 QD TV lineup at “The first Look 2018 New York” reinforcing ultra large QLED TV with better UI and AI and extending QLED adoption to 4X inches and started a strong push for its Micro LED TV with QD technology targeting high-end markets.

For electronic materials suppliers, it seems that large cycles may continue, as many panel makers have a plan to start operating new and larger production capacities over the coming years. According to IHS’ Display Supply Demand Equipment Tracker 2Q 2017, the planned capacity increase and a panel output from Korean and Chinese companies will lead to a rise in materials consumption. Chinese companies especially are making progress towards ramping Generation 6 OLED panel display lines, and this will help to drive sustainable growth of the OLED materials market.

With foldable devices on the horizon late this year, led by Samsung, there could be even more opportunities for suppliers of other materials such as polyimides, hard coatings and low temperature processing materials. In summary, the OLED materials market is still small, but projections are strong as Samsung, LG, and Chinese panel makers are expected to continue to invest aggressively, primarily for mobile display devices. How large this market could become is an open question, especially if companies like these invest more than planned because of technologies like OLED inkjet printing that are predicted to become mainstream in 3 to 5 years’ time.

In the QD market, QD film, previously used exclusively by Samsung for its high-end premium TV, began to gain traction in mid-end premium TVs during the second half of 2017, according to IHS1. If this trend lasts and expands to Chinese TV manufacturers, QD materials should re-gain strong growth momentum. Moreover, if a premium gaming monitor expected from Samsung attracts new consumers this year, it may motivate competition from companies like HP, Phillips and Dell to expand their embedded QD product line-up. This in turn could prompt Chinese panel makers to adopt QD film technology to meet market demand.

Unfortunately, an outlook for the LCD market is not so bright. WitsView, a division of TrendForce, reported that global shipments of branded LCD TV sets for 2017 will total 210 million units, a decrease of 4.1% compared with prior year.2 This supply glut in 2017 led to a decline in panel prices, putting pressure on display materials makers in turn to also drop prices. Although LCDs still represent a large part of the display panel market, and TrendForce is even projecting some growth in 20182, markets and technologies seem to be saturated and commoditized.

Top tier manufacturers like Samsung and LG are expected to focus on premium markets in an effort to differentiate from their competitors and increase profitability as well. Second tier vendors will leverage economies of scale to reduce costs and increase market share. As such, LCD materials providers will need to focus on being price competitive to ride out the trend.

Although the outlook isn’t entirely clear for displays, Dow and DuPont are excited about all the new opportunities we see ahead in this market. We offer a broad portfolio of products and proprietary technologies to serve OLED, QD and LCD markets, ranging from highly-productive LCD passivation materials to OLED evaporative materials and cadmium-free quantum dots, as well as from rigid displays to foldable display panels. We are working on various projects with leading display manufacturers to deliver the utmost value benefiting from strong and diverse portfolios. We are also engaged in a couple of challenging projects for new material development related to future foldable displays in collaboration with leading display panel makers. Dow and DuPont will expand its current R&D facilities to support these R&D projects in various countries, which will lead to more effective and faster technology development for our customers

To see what others are saying about the global display market, check out c&en’s 2018 World Chemical Outlook, which includes DowDuPont’s perspective in a variety of markets.

1IHS, WCG display market to account for over 20 % by 2019

2TrendForce, Downtrend In LCD TV Shipments To Reverse In 2018 Thanks to Continuous Panel Price Drop and Rebounding Demand, Says TrendForce