Major LED firms in Taiwan and China have made ambitious moves developing mini LED devices for backlighting applications and displays, with the focus of competition expected to swing from product offerings in second-half half 2018 to production cost in 2019.
Demand for LED products has remained weak since first-half 2018, and has not yet rebounded in the third quarter despite it being the traditional high season. However, maturing technological development for mini LED is offering business opportunities.
In Taiwan, LCD panel maker AU Optronics (AUO) plans to launch mini LED-backlit applications for gaming monitors by year-end 2018, while Innolux will launch mini LED-backlit panels for public information displays.
Vertically integrated LED maker Lextar Electronics will begin shipments of mini LED backlighting devices for high-end notebooks and gaming monitors in the third quarter. LED packaging service provider Everlight Electronics will begin production of mini LED backlighting devices for automotive displays in the fourth quarter.
LED chip maker Epistar will offer mini LED backlit-panels for gaming devices in the fourth quarter, while packaging service providers Unity Opto Technology's and Harvatek's mini LED backlighting devices are being validated by clients.
In China, LED chip makers Sanan Optoelectronics and HC SemiTek have signed contracts to supply Mini LEDs to Samsung Electronics, and will soon start production of Mini LEDs.
LED packaging service provider Foshan Nationstar Optoelectronics is cooperating with international vendors to develop mini LED backlighting devices for smartphones and LCD TVs, while Shenzhen Refound Optoelectronics has exhibited samples of mini LED backlighting devices for 55-inch LCD TVs and small- to medium-size panels.
Mini LED backlighting was originally expected to be initially applied to smartphones in second-half 2018, but such applications have yet to come out. Instead, applications for high-end notebooks and gaming monitors will take off first, as mini LED's local dimming design enables excellent HDR (high dynamic range) function - a feature appreciated by users of high-end notebooks and gaming monitors, according to LED supply chain sources. Besides, OLED panels are rarely adopted for high-end notebooks and gaming devices.
Although mini LED appears to be taking off, it remains to be seen whether how well it will be received by the market and how well mini LED-backlit TVs can compete against OLED TVs in 2019.