The Fourth Wave In Display Creates Opportunity For Applied Materials
It is likely you did not hear about the latest exploits of Charlie Sheen or the recent natural disasters from the evening news on television or from the newspaper. You probably did not buy Lady Gaga’s latest CD at a record store. It is more likely that you are participating in a new wave of information sharing – social networking and media downloading – these are driving demand for mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet PC’s . We refer to this latest shift as the “fourth wave” of demand expansion in the thin film transistor liquid crystal displays (TFT-LCD) industry.
The history of the cyclical expansion of the TFT-LCD display industry centers on the introduction of popular new display applications that were enabled by ever larger sheets of glass. The first wave being the laptop PC in the mid-1990’s; the desktop monitor in early 2000 and large area TFT-LCD TV’s in the mid-2000’s.
The fourth wave is driven by nothing less than the complete transformation of how we buy music; how we read books; how we get the news; how we watch video, television, movies; and how we socially interact with each other. With mobile devices such as the smart phone and tablet PC all of these activities are available to us at anyplace, any time. The smart phone and tablet PC companies that are the market leaders dominate the market by dominating the marketing channels with content and applications that make their devices indispensible and not easily replaceable. They also dominate the manufacturing capacity for key components such as the display. The result has been that companies trying to catch up with the smart phone and tablet PC market leaders either can produce a product with the same functionality at a higher cost or can offer a product at the same cost with less functionality.
So what is the opportunity for display equipment manufacturers such as Applied Materials? It is generally expected that tablet PC demand will surpass 100 million units per year by 2012 and mobile phones already exceeded 1 billion units in 2010. New applications on new devices require new display technologies. Better image quality is needed for mobile content such as video. Multi-touch interface is needed for flexibility, replacing the mouse and keyboard. These new mobile requirements are driving adoption of high-performance LCD, OLED and Touch. The technologies driving high-performance mobile displays are low-temperature poly-silicon (LTPS), OLED, high-performance LCD and touch panel.
Mobile devices utilizing OLED provide high contrast ratio and a slim form factor as the OLED requires no back light; improved viewing angle, high brightness and low power. The penetration of OLED into mobile phones is increasing as more capacity, including Generation 5.5 LTPS manufacturing beginning in 2011. The AKT-20K PX PECVD system announced last month is Applied Materials key entry to large area LTPS panel production. LTPS backplanes for OLED feature high, stable drive current at low power that provide a bright, stable image on the screen for OLED mobile devices.
Hi-resolution LCD displays also utilize LTPS backplanes provides higher electron mobility, feature smaller transistors providing smaller pixels and higher resolution. Besides high resolution, the hi-performance LCD has improved viewing angle, high brightness and low power. Both OLED and Hi-resolution LCD feature transistor back planes with LTPS technology. An additional equipment opportunity exists as the LTPS backplane requires 2X masking steps resulting in 2X equipment intensity. The overall effect is that the technology is still being adopted as the manufacturing cost impact is small in comparison to the overall improvement in display quality.
Touch panel capability is proliferating in mobile devices as it provides an intuitive user interface and maximizes the display size as a keypad is no longer required. Touch panel will represent a majority of mobile phones within 5 years. Capacitive multi-touch technology is becoming the preferred technology for mobile applications. They require up to 5 deposition layers per display.
The opportunities represented by the fourth wave of new display technologies including OLED, Hi-performance LCD and touch panel are expected to result in a $400 million increase in the market opportunity for Applied Materials in 2011. The future for display at Applied is certainly bright!