New Tripoli, Pa. - The TFT-LCD equipment market has been on a roller coaster ride for the past ten years, as Japanese companies dominate the industry, according to the report LCD Market: Technology Directions and Market Analysis, recently published by The Information Network (www.theinformationnet.com), a New Tripoli, PA-based market research company.
AKT, a subsidiary of Applied Materials, was the only non-Japanese-owned equipment manufacturer in the top ten. Applied Komatsu Technology was a joint venture established in 1993 between Komatsu and Applied Materials and later sold to Applied Materials in October 1999.
The company dropped from second to third place in the LCD equipment market in 2013 while its acquisition target Tokyo Electron dropped to fourth place, the third consecutive year it dropped in rankings, noted Dr. Robert Castellano, President of The Information Network. The year 2013 exhibited the first growth year for the industry since 2010, and we see positive growth over the next several years based on several factors:
Push Towards Larger Panel Sizes: LCDs are made from mother sheets of highly accurately-made glass. The machinery that processes this glass determines the number and size of TFT panels that can be made in one pass down the production line. Since the materials needed to make a TFT panel are costly, and since process time and energy has to be carefully controlled, each manufacturer has machinery that is optimized for the sizes of panels it wants to market.
Push Towards Higher Resolutions: Television is evolving. 4K Ultra HD is rewriting the rulebook when it comes to image quality, and in the process is beginning to fundamentally change everything from program production to distribution technology. 4K TV sets are now available from most of the major TV manufacturers, but they're merely the tip of a very cool technology iceberg. 4K Ultra HD TVs (also known as UHD TVs) deliver four times the picture resolution of 1080p Full HD, that's eight million pixels compared to two million pixels. What that means in terms of potential image clarity is more fine detail, greater texture and an almost photographic emulsion of smoothness.
Small- to medium-size panel market lifted by new applications: With the market for high-end smartphones having matured, it is critical to distinguish high-resolution panels from high-end smartphones. Although unit growth might decelerate for overall smartphone market, resolution upgrades trend continues at a fast pace, driven by a full-scale migration in China for mid-end smartphone segments. We expect a meaningful shift to HD720 and above resolution for smartphone panels. By end-2014, over half of the smartphone panels will carry 300ppi above resolution. Apple (AAPL) might push for higher resolution in iPads and a shift from a-Si to LTPS (low temperature polysilicon)/Oxide panels for its upcoming models.
Japan Display, Sharp, and LG Display (LPL) are expanding or converting existing lines to LTPS/Oxide, which will benefit the equipment market.
This year's hot issue in the TFT LCD industry is the mobile display market, and a clear driver for the demand surge in high resolution small and medium LCDs, which grew 52% growth mainly due to the increasing demand in tablets.
The large panel market (above 9 inches) will grow from 664.7 million panels in 2010 to 804.1 million in 2017, a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 2.8% between 2010 and 2017.