MONTEREY, Calif.--The shortage of flat-panel display driver ICs has become worse than the lack of glass for displays, and the chip situation is expected to get worse next year, according to speakers at the Stanford Resources Inc.'s annual marketing conference here today.
During the meeting, vendors of flat-panel displays (FPDs) said they are attempting to overcome the shortage of driver ICs by qualifying more suppliers. Carl Steudle, director of display marketing at Samsung Semiconductor, told the conference that even his firm's in-house production of driver ICs was not sufficient to keep up with demand, and the Korean electronics giant has been forced to add external chip suppliers.
However, Matt Medeiros, president and chief executive officer of Philips Flat Display Systems (FDS) in San Jose, said simply adding driver IC suppliers doesn't solve the problem. "If there is a shortage of ICs, there isn't going to be enough supply for flat-panel producers fighting each other to add additional sources," he said. "The biggest manufacturers can probably use their immense buying power to get additional allocation of driver ICs from second- and third-source suppliers. But that leaves very little supply for the second- and third-tier producers."
Medeiros said his division's sister operation--Philips Semiconductors--has entered the driver IC market and next year the group plans to deliver notebook and monitor driver chips to help meet demand at the flat-panel display subsidiary. Philips Semiconductors is already supplying the FDS company with custom driver ICs for displays on wireless phone handsets, he added.
The Philips executive said the driver IC shortage will be exacerbated as FPD producers increase their production of custom flat-panel displays. Medeiros claimed suppliers will be stressed to make custom chips at a time when they cannot meet the demand for commodity driver ICs.
During breaks at the SRI conference, corridor talk indicated that the shortage of driver ICs was fueling the transition to new polysilicon thin-film-transistor (TFT) liquid-crystal display (LCD) panels, which can fabricate driver circuits directly on the glass. Smaller-size polysilicon LCD panels are now growing in the handheld and view-finder market, but Toshiba Corp. is pushing the technology for notebook PC-size displays.