From Apple’s long rumored iPad pro with mini LED backlight to Samsung’s Mini LED backlight TV, mini LED backlight is becoming a new favorite in the industry. In China, with pile up in excess of requirement of LED capacity and overall downtrend, Mini-LED is expected to regulate the balance between supply and demand of industries, and extend the life cycle of LCD, which will bring rare opportunities to manufacturers, especially Chinese manufacturers. At the same time, under the influence of increasing process difficulty and high product price, mini LED is still a long way from large-scale production.
Xu ChenKe, deputy general manager of San’an optoelectronics, believes that based on cost considerations, the future market will present a state of differentiated development: “the cost structure of the overall Mini LED backlight module still depends on the design of the scheme, including the number of particles and partitions used by the chip. Simply put, the more chips there are and the more partitions there are, the higher the overall cost of mini LEDs and drivers. Therefore, the mini LED backlight market will be divided into high-level and medium level products. “
Mini led, also known as submillimeter led, is generally considered to be led with grain size between 100-200 microns. Mini led direct display backlight is suitable for both, but the current Mini LED backlight technology is relatively more mature. Mini LED can overcome the serious problem of light leakage between black and white pixels of traditional LED. As an improved version based on small spacing LED backlight, it does not need to overcome the technical threshold of massive transfer. It has lower technical difficulty and is easier to achieve mass production. It can achieve the display effect comparable to OLED panel with lower cost, and has longer service life and lower power consumption. OLED is mainly used in small panel because of its obvious short board in large panel applications, such as screen burning, huge investment and high cost. In the field of high-end large panel, mini LED is regarded as a better choice.
Yole data shows that global Mini LED display devices are expected to grow from 3.24 million in 2019 to 80.7 million in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 90%. According to trendforce led research, the output value of mini LED backlight will reach 340 million US dollars by 2023 (only the output value of mini LED backlight, excluding other driver ICs and backplanes).
For the industry, this is a rare opportunity. Xu ChenKe said: “in terms of backlight applications in the mini LED market, the number of chips used in this market has greatly increased. It is estimated that at the present stage and in the next few years, each company will be in the state of expanding production. The existing LED overall production capacity is far from enough to meet the application demand.”
Wang Fei, research director of ledinside, once analyzed the industrial opportunities brought by mini led: “the role of mini led in the industry can be predicted from the demand side and the supply side respectively. On the demand side, once the mini LED products are highly recognized by consumers, it may increase the demand, which is to some extent improving the demand cycle; on the supply side, the mini LED may create product differentiation in the mature industry of LED, so as to generate new value through differentiation features or new selling points, and thus have the opportunity to turn into a profit point of the enterprise. “
This opportunity is more favorable to mainland China manufacturers. On the one hand, the Mini-LED backlight plan is expected to extend the LCD display cycle. Chinese mainland manufacturers can realize the rapid development by Mini-LED Dongfeng when the main capacity of LCD has been transferred to mainland China. China’s China’s Mini-LED racing together bridle to bridle even partly surpass Taiwan’s technology and production costs, according to Xu Chenke. First, China has become the world’s largest LED manufacturing and manufacturing base, with many competitive LED manufacturers, such as the third national photoelectric prize, which is the first prize of national science and technology progress. Secondly, China is the largest region of LED cooperation or OEM selection in the world. Finally, in terms of LED, China’s investment is faster than that of China’s Taiwan and other parts of the world.
Cost limit popularization
However, the current Mini LED has not yet entered the stage of mass production. Previously, Wang Fei said in an interview that mini LED backlight technology, as a relatively new technology, has a limited production scale and mostly appears in new product releases. It is expected that mass production will not appear until next year.
From a technical point of view, due to the reduction of LED point spacing, mini LED is facing the problems of increasing packaging process difficulty and reducing yield; from a market point of view, the cost advantage of mini LED has not been reflected in the terminal price. According to DSCC, a research company, although the production cost of mini LED TV is lower than that of OLED, the gap is less than 10%, which means that the retail price of mini LED TV will be almost the same as that of OLED TV. According to statistics, in 2019, the global market demand for LED display screen products below P1.0 is only 1-2 billion yuan, accounting for less than 5% of the total display screen scale, and the high price is the main reason for the slow popularization speed.
However, Xu ChenKe is optimistic about this. He thinks that the mini LED is mainly for the high-end market. Technically, the overall picture quality has been consistent with OLED, and some performance indicators have surpassed OLED. He also has advantages in cost, and has entered the stage of mass production and is in continuous increment. Taking San’an optoelectronics as an example, its mini LED has been in mass production for nearly three years.
Of course, at present, the cost advantage of mini led relative to OLED is not outstanding enough, which causes certain obstacles to its mass production and popularization. However, in Xu ChenKe’s view, the mini LED market may be effectively shunted and a balance between performance and cost performance can be achieved through product high and medium level layering.
Patent becomes the focus of competition
As some people in the industry said, with the in-depth development of LED industry, it is inevitable that the focus of market competition will shift from price and capacity to patent.
Shao pengrui, President of innovation and Technology Research Institute of Jingtai Co., Ltd., said in a previous interview that the future will be the main battlefield of mini / microled, and patent wars will be more frequent. Especially when TCL Huaxing, Konka and other large manufacturers enter these markets, international manufacturers will also enhance their awareness of patent protection.
Mini led patents mainly include early basic led patents and specific patents for mini technology. Among them, the patents for basic LED chips are mainly held by the early international manufacturers. However, after 2014, these patents have expired one after another, and the impact on the mini LED chip market is decreasing. The specific patents for mini LED are blooming, and the early enterprises entering this field are actively laying out. For example, according to Xu ChenKe, there are more than 200 valid patents for San’an optoelectronic Mini led.
At present, there are a large number of mini led patents, and few manufacturers can avoid all patents without authorization and cross authorization. It will be an important strategy to have a certain number of basic important patents and cross license with other competitors. According to the analysis of trendforce, the industry competition should not stay in the shallow dimensions of production capacity and cost. It will be conducive to the healthy development of the whole industry to shift the focus to technological innovation and R & D capability.
Editor in charge: Tzh