Sony banking on OLEDs
Sony is planning to expand its organic LED (OLED) business unit. From the middle of the 2008 fiscal year, around autumn, the entertainment giant plans to invest around 22 billion Yen (approximately $204m). Its aim is to offer larger OLED panels for televisions and other AV products. The XEL-1 television, which has an organic screen, has been available in small numbers in Japan since December 2007 and has just an 11in. (28cm) diagonal. The financial injection will allow further development of the technology for deposition of the light-emitting layers, and for manufacturing low temperature polysilicon (LPTS) transistors at the Sony Mobile Display Corporation (SMD) plant. This should allow the company to manufacture larger screens.
The plant at Higashiura, Japan, which was founded in 1997 as the ST Liquid Crystal Display Corporation (ST LCD) in a joint venture with Toyota Industries, was merged with ST Mobile Display Corporation (STMD), an 80/20 joint venture between the two companies founded in 2005, and is still 14 per cent owned by Toyota. SMD will be transferred fully to Sony at the end of the financial year on 31st March 2009.
The glass substrates from which organic panels are cut at SMD are 600mm x 720mm and 550mm x 650mm. For comparison, existing seventh and eighth generation LCD plants use substrates of up to 2200mm x 2500mm. Sony's OLED plant is equivalent to a 3.5 or 3rd generation LCD plant. Sony plans to implement production technology for larger OLED screens at its SMD plant by March 2010.
The Japanese company has been conducting research into organic displays for nearly 15 years and showed its first OLED display in 2001. The company hopes to take a leading role in this field in the future, but still sees current OLED televisions as prestige objects. The company is not yet in a position to make money from the devices, as production still presents a number of difficulties.