Barry Young Interview: OLED Industry Alive and Well in the US
With 40 years in the high-tech industry, including many as a successful entrepreneur, Barry Young started the OLED Association in 2007. The group has about 15 members across the globe: display manufacturers plus companies producing OLED panels, substrates, and materials, as well as associated manufacturing equipment. As Managing Director of the OLED Association, Young travels worldwide to promote OLED technology and the industry.
He spoke with Lighting.com from his base in Austin, Texas, specifically addressing the state of the OLED industry in the US.
Lighting.com: OLED development for lighting is dominated by established display makers from the Pacific Rim. How will the US come into the OLED lighting market?
Young: Speaking historically, this technology was originally developed by a US company, Kodak, which developed the materials and then went on to commercialize and build products in Japan with a partner, Sanyo. Around 2005 it fell apart for them and then by 2010 they were out of the business, having sold their intellectual property to LG.
Kodak was unable to take the advantage they had and convert it into a profitable business. But if Kodak hadn’t done what they did, there might not be an OLED industry today.
Today the OLED industry in the US is making materials and components for OLED panels manufactured overseas. And they are working to expand the various offerings that these companies have.
In the longer term, US companies are going to have to fight hard to maintain their market overseas. Samsung is making 95 percent of all the OLED displays sold, and they would like to form their own supplier network in Korea. As a result, LG is doing the same thing.
Today Samsung is the elephant in the room. Samsung had over 98% share in 2011. They shipped 100 million AMOLED displays in 2011 and are on target for 200 million in 2012. Their revenue is up 100% year-to-year in 2012.
Lighting.com: What companies in the US are players today?
Young: In the US, the main company involved with OLED is Universal Display Corporation, which is making phosphorus materials. It’s basically the material that allows the electrical energy to be converted into light and has internal quantum efficiency of 100 percent. That is, the chemicals themselves, they are converting 100 percent of the electrons into photons. They’ve got over 1000 patents and the major companies, like Samsung, use them in displays for smartphones, TVs, and other products.
Overall, Universal Display is very important part of the OLED lighting and display industry today. In the lighting space, Panasonic is using their phosphors; Philips, OSRAM, as well. There are only six or seven companies that are active. Moser Baer is headquartered in India, but they have an operation in the US.
Another company that is very active is DuPont Displays. This division has a spray-printing process that they are trying to commercialize whereby they take the organic matter and put it into a solution and then they print the organic materials.
Most companies use vacuum thermal evaporation to form a thin film, which is an expensive process and not a very efficient use of materials. Many companies would rather print the OLED material at normal atmospheric pressure. This technology is still in R&D and not producing any products yet.
GE has a pilot line where they’re doing roll-to-roll production at atmosphere, like a newspaper printing line, to make panels. If they’re successful in doing that, they’re likely to reinvent the manufacturing of flexible electronics in the US. Lighting panels would just be the first of many kinds of products. Think about manufacturing sensors or photovoltaics or batteries – all kinds of products could be made if GE solves the problems of roll-to-roll manufacturing.
They have made a little progress but they still have a long way to go. In OLED lighting, most of the work being done all over the world is R&D, not production.
Finally you have companies like Corning and PPG that are producing the glass substrates that are used in displays (that’s Corning) and PPG, which is used in lighting (also still in R&D). A company called Applied Materials is making tools for depositing OLED material in vacuum deposition manufacturing. And Dow Chemical makes organic material that is used in production.
Lighting.com: What organizations and market factors can give the US OLED lighting industry a leg up?
Young: The DOE is sponsoring R&D for OLED lighting. They are entering into joint development agreements with GE, Universal Display, PPG and DuPont, plus Moser Baer in NY State. What the DOE is trying to do is stimulate the development of solutions to the problems of manufacturing OLED lighting.
Each of these companies is trying to get to higher efficiency, longer lifetime, higher light outputs and then lower cost, in order to make OLED competitive in the lighting industry with incumbent lighting technologies.
The government is already trying to take a step by defining the efficiency of current products. By setting these minimum thresholds they are leading consumers to purchase more efficient products even though they’re more expensive. The government can continue to support these regulations to help the OLED industry – and other more efficient technologies – grow. In the longer term it’s better for the consumer, but there has been a lot of blowback, politically.
Lighting.com: Will the current LED lighting revolution pave the way for OLEDs, or will it make the competition and the marketplace even tougher when the time comes?
Young: LEDs are 10 years in, as they relate to lighting. And they are paving the way, but as they get more efficient and lower in cost they make it more difficult for OLED to find a niche in the market.
Since there is more than 10 years difference, OLEDs are higher cost and less efficient. But the cost is coming down faster and the efficiency is increasing faster: at some point they will be much more competitive. So the key question for companies starting to get into this market is, when will this happen?
Perhaps consumers will think that LEDs are great, and they won’t be receptive to the newer OLED technology.
OLEDs are a more sophisticated and more environmentally friendly product. Once the LED chip is manufactured it needs to be mounted on a circuit board with a heat sink, optics, and diffusers. Whereas when you make an OLED, you have a lamp. You don’t need these extra components.
For example, today the big market is to replace the incandescent lamp at 1000 hours life. LED bulbs are one-for-one replacements and you have something that now works for 50,000 hours. For OLED you would never make a bulb. The OLED would be the shade. You would just connect the shade to an electrical source and you would have the light source. You don’t have to block the source because the OLED is much more diffuse, and it allows all kinds of shapes and patterns – so many possibilities.
Interviewed by Lois I. Hutchinson