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The MicroLED revolution is postponed further

[11:49 Tue,9.July 2024   by Thomas Richter]    

We, the consumers, have been waiting for many years for the MicroLED revolution to finally deliver fantastic images to our screens while also consuming much less energy than before. It was expected that the excellent, yet very expensive MicroLED technology would become more affordable through continuous advancements in manufacturing and not just be used in very large displays like MicroLED cinema screens or microdisplays.

However, bringing the cost of production down to a level that can compete with OLEDs—MicroLED was once touted as an OLED killer—proves more challenging than anticipated. The production process requires the combination of millions of microscopic light-emitting diodes—each defective LED results in a pixel error, so production must be nearly flawless. The fact that manufacturers still struggle with the production of large MicroLED displays is also reflected in the prices of the few available MicroLED TVs, for example, Samsung&s 110" MicroLED TV currently costs around 120,000 euros.

MicroLED Market Introduction Further Slowed

And the indication that this slow progress is now becoming even slower comes from industry information suggesting that two of the leading display manufacturers, LG and Samsung, now intend to put the brakes on their investments in MicroLED. LG has reduced its teams for research and development of MicroLEDs and wants to partially divert their resources to benefit OLEDs. LG had already announced in March that it would invest around 1 billion dollars in the production of OLED panels of all sizes. Samsung wants to continue with MicroLEDs, but has postponed plans to expand production and has advised technology partners to radically reduce production costs to one-tenth to make MicroLED TVs competitive.

The market launch of MicroLED monitors and TVs will likely be delayed for a long time, as foreseen by the MicroLED Association in their Roadmap 2023, which only predicted pilot level production by 2030-33—a timeline likely to be further delayed by recent developments.

Thus, it appears that Mini-LEDs and OLEDs will be the display technologies available to us for high-quality screens in the coming years—especially the latter, as the weaknesses of OLEDs, like the infamous image burn-in, are minimized through further development and costs are reduced through expanded production.

Advantages of MicroLED Panels

The advantages of MicroLEDs over OLEDs and traditional LCD displays are significant: like OLED displays, they have high contrast (including often 100% DCI-P3 color space coverage), an extremely flat design, and excellent black levels (true black), but they do not have the disadvantages such as the risk of image burn-in and relatively short lifespan.

How Do MicroLED Displays Work?

In Micro-LED displays, each image pixel is represented by three tiny self-emitting red, green, and blue LEDs. This offers the advantage that each pixel can be individually switched on and off as well as dimmed, meaning a black point emits absolutely no light and the dimming is perfectly "local," because there are no more or less coarse brightness zones (due to backlighting). Moreover, the brightness is higher because, unlike LCDs, there is no color filter in front of the light-emitting LEDs, which inevitably absorbs light (and produces heat). Unlike OLEDs, they do not use organic LEDs, but miniaturized conventional LEDs. These are more durable and have a significantly higher brightness (including about 50% higher energy efficiency) than OLEDs, though they are also more difficult to produce.

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