Although thin-film-transistor liquid crystal display (TFT LCD) technology still leads the display market, demand for the panels has been diminishing for a while. One research firm predicts the TFT LCD market will reach its peak next year while another researcher says larger-size TFT LCD displays may have some life in them yet.
RnRMarketResearch.com reports the TFT-LCD industry touched the bottom in 2011 and has warmed up slowly since 2012. However, the market is expected to reach its peak in early 2015 and then fall into another lengthy decline stage by 2016. DisplaySearch forecasts that 2014 will be a particularly good year for TFT-LCDs -- sales of panels sized 9 inches or larger could reach $75 billion. LCD TV panel shipments are expected to grow 5 percent this year, DisplaySearch said, reaching 249 million units.
“2013 was the first year large-area TFT LCD panel shipments and revenues declined; however, a market rebound beginning in the second quarter of 2014 has enabled panel makers to reach their business plans,” said David Hsieh, vice president of the greater China market for DisplaySearch. ”Strong growth in the average sizes of LCD TVs, and inventory shortages in those sizes, have transformed the industry atmosphere, enabling panel makers to increase prices and expand shipment volumes.”
TFT LCD makers have implemented various strategies to offset declining demand.South Korean vendors represented by Samsung have explored the OLED field, RnRMarketResearch reports. In Japan, Sharp switched its focus to small and medium-sized panels and produced mobile phone panels with 8.5-generation lines and vigorously developed IGZO technology. Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba set up a joint venture -— Japan Display (referred to as JDI) -- to develop LTPS technology. Taiwanese vendors developed 4K HD technology. Chinese mainland vendors promoted the construction of new production lines at low cost.
TFT LCD panel technology improvements that bolstered shipments, said DisplaySearch, included 4K panels, super-slim bezels, higher transmittance open-cell technology, higher resolutions, in-plane switching (IPS) and fringe-field switching (FFS), ultra-slim and lightweight form factors, and higher color gamut. Other recent improvements in integration included up-scaling circuitry, touch screens and mechanical parts.
Organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology is widely considered to be the successor of LCD due to its low-power consumption and the ability to print displays on flexible substrates such as plastic. OLED panels for high-resolution tablet PCs (e.g., 280-360 PPI) are expected to reach 5 million units in 2014, which is a new milestone for the category, according to DisplaySearch. “2013 was a year of convergence, between inventory adjustments and panel value upgrades, which set the stage for better results this year, in a tightening market with a surge in panel shipments,” Hsieh said.
RnR is a little less enthusiastic about OLED. OLED cannot replace the voltage-based LCD due to following factors, the firm said. Firstly, OLED requires LTPS technology, which means its cost is much higher than LCD. Secondly, the resolution of current-based components is difficult to raise, but LCD has huge potentials in terms of resolution. Thirdly, OLED's quality is not steady for its employment of unstable chemical materials, and its luminous efficiency decays as time goes by, which is another fatal flaw. In the small and medium-sized field, Japanese vendors make advantage of LTPS and IGZO to occupy technical high grounds, and Taiwanese vendors lead the global LCD trend with 4K for the first time.
Samsung has shown an over-reliance on OLED, RnR continues, and its LCD business has gradually crept down. It not only lags behind INNOLUX under Taiwan's Hon Hai in shipment, but also will drop behind INNOLUX in terms of revenue in 2014. As for profitability, Samsung gets into trouble as well. Being overly optimistic on the Chinese mainland market, Samsung invested heavily in China's first foreign-funded 8.5-generation line in Suzhou. However, the production line brought the huge loss of KRW86.6 billion in the first half of 2014. Besides China, Samsung also witnessed loss in its overall LCD business in Q2 2014. Samsung has revealed that it will not launch any new OLED TV; even it may quit the OLED TV field in 2015.
RnR predicts that China will be the next powerhouse in TFT LCD technology. Currently, the prices of 32 to 42-inch LCD-TV panels have stabilized and tend to rise marginally before the peak season, while the prices of 42 to 65-inch LCD-TV panels follow the downward trend as LG Display and Samsung put two 8.5-generation lines into operation in the first half of 2014. In 2015, CSOT's second 8.5-generation line, Chongqing BOE's second 8.5-generation line and CEC-Panda's first 8.5-generation line will target the 46 to 65-inch TV market, but the output will not be high in the initial stage, so they will not influence the market significantly. On the whole, China will have five 8.5-generation lines in 2015, RnR said.