The explosive growth of smart phones and tablets has made high performance TFT technologies, particularly LTPS (low temperature polysilicon) and IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide), critical to production of the high resolution displays used by these devices. These TFT technologies employ high mobility semiconductor materials, which allow panel manufacturers to shrink TFT dimensions and increase light transmission. LCDs with greater than 230 ppi (pixels per inch) resolution, such as Apple’s Retina display, are enabled by high transmission because it minimizes power consumption, allowing mobile devices to run longer without recharging.

According to the NPD DisplaySearch TFT LCD Process Roadmap Report, high mobility backplane production is forecast to grow 150% from 5.6 million square meters in 2011 to 14.1 million square meters in 2012. Drivers for this tremendous growth include multiple Gen 5 and larger LTPS fabs starting production in 2012, as well as expected IGZO production on existing lines by Sharp, LG Display and Samsung.

Figure 1: Manufacturing Capacity Devoted to High Resolution Backplane Production
NPD Manufacturing Capacity Devoted to High Resolution Backplane Production
Source: NPD DisplaySearch TFT LCD Process Roadmap Report

“Smart phones, tablets and cost reduction are expected to be the key drivers pushing the FPD industry in 2012,” stated Charles Annis, NPD DisplaySearch Vice President of Manufacturing Research, in the press release. “With FPD profitability under extreme pressure, LCD makers are focusing development efforts on rapidly-growing mobile segments and a wide array of cost reduction strategies. Because of this, high mobility backplanes, optical alignment, high resolution lithography and advanced LC modes are expected to be some of the most important manufacturing technology trends over the next year.”

All of these technologies target increasing panel transmission. With only about 4-9% of illumination generated by LCD backlights making it to the front of screen, very powerful light sources are required to meet LCD brightness specifications. In addition, backlight units are the single most expensive components in large-area LCD modules. Thus, by increasing transmission, panel makers can trade off power consumption and costs.

“However, a lot of know-how and proprietary technology are required to successfully increase transmission without sacrificing yield. Panel makers and their suppliers are racing to create competitive advantages through manufacturing technologies to increase profitability in 2012,” Annis added. “Any technology, such as IGZO, that may simultaneously lower costs while improving performance offers a double competitive advantage to panel makers, and potentially can create a new standard in FPD manufacturing.”

The new NPD DisplaySearch TFT LCD Process Roadmap Report offers a unique and unprecedented guide to these rapidly evolving FPD manufacturing technologies. The report provides technical discussions, process flows, production status by maker, adoption forecasts for 57 technologies and analysis of benefits, opportunities, negatives and challenges. Additionally, LCD cost and performance specifications for manufacturing technologies are projected through 2016.

Source: The NPD Group, Inc.