Although the flat panel display market has often been characterized by fluctuations in supply and demand, one display sector continues to show a strong uptick—Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs)

That’s the findings of a recent report by market research firm Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) titled "Quarterly OLED Supply/Demand and Capital Spending Report," which tracks sales of OLED displays and capital spending in OLED display products. The firm projects OLED revenue rising 57 percent in 2017 to $23.2 billion, further rising another 50 percent to $34.9 billion in 2018 (Figure 1).

The flat panel TV market, one key battleground for display technologies, is witnessing a boom in the design-in of OLED technology. According to DSCC, OLED TV panel revenues are expected to grow at a 37 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to $5.9 billion in 2022, with unit sales rising at a 49 percent CAGR to 9.5 million panels by that time.

The other key end market for OLED technology is in smartphones, where DSCC projects shipments of OLED displays to rise at a 24 percent CAGR to 1.37 million panels. In fact, the firms expects OLED panels to overtake liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in smartphones by 2020. Smartphone leaders Apple and Samsung are leading the transition to fabricate all displays using OLED technology.

DSCC expects total OLED panel shipments to rise at a 25 percent CAGR from 394 million in 2016 to 1.48 billion by 2022.

OLED technology is different from LED technology as it uses a series of thin, light emitting films in place of individual LED bulbs. The design enables the OLED array to produce brighter light with lower power consumption than LCD and LED technologies. OLED displays can be made with higher refresh rates than LCD and LED-based displays, and moreover offer a wide viewing angle without the color and clarity losses seen in traditional LEDs.  

The fact that OLEDs are fabricated on sheets is also opening up huge market for the technology—printing OLEDs on flexible substrates. This will lead to curved and foldable OLED displays, and could further slash OLED production costs as more companies ramp up roll-to-roll manufacturing capability.

The bright outlook for OLEDs is in turn raising capital spending for OLED production. According to DSCC, OLED fab equipment spending is expected to rise 166 percent in 2017 to $7.7 billion, and another 17 percent in 2018 to $9.0 billion.

Figure 1: Smartphones dominate applications for OLED displays, but flat-panel TVs are gaining. (Image Credit: DSCC)