MANHASSET, N.Y. The rivalry to claim the world's largest thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD at the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show came down to a two-inch difference. LG Philips LCD Co. Ltd. showcased a 52-inch TFT-LCD that it called the world's largest, but Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. upstaged it with a 54-inch TFT LCD television. But while LCDs are the latest rage in large flat-panel displays, some LCD manufacturers, including Philips Electronics and Samsung, are hedging their bets by pursing organic LEDs.
In the latest OLED move, Hong Kong-based display provider Varitronix International Ltd. announced this week that it has obtained a license to use Eastman Kodak Co.'s OLED technology.
"Having identified the OLED technology as one of the mainstay display technologies for the future, Varitronix is committed to staying at the forefront of its applications," Varitronix chairman C. C. Chang said in a statement. "The licensing rights are not only instrumental to our ongoing research efforts in this area, but also help secure our advantages in further exploring this future market."
Varitronix has concentrated on LCDs for the past 20 years, but is now turning to OLEDs, a technology that relies on a simple manufacturing process that could make production costs dramatically lower than those for TFT LCDs, advocates say. Varitronix intends to push the technology for applications in the automotive and consumer markets. Its initial products will be passive-matrix OLEDs for monochrome and multicolor character and graphic panels. Ultimately, the company plans to introduce full-color active-matrix OLED panels.
OLEDs' biggest appeal lies in its self-luminance, excellent brightness and contrast, wide viewing angle, fast response, low driving voltage and full color. Unlike LCDs, these self-emitting devices do not need any backlighting or frontlighting.
Varitronix has completed a 1,000-sq.-ft. cleanroom to house its OLED R&D facility. It has installed a batch type front-of-line equipment for 7 x 7-inch glass substrates and a multi-chamber vacuum evaporator with dry box for organic layers and cathode deposition. Varitronix said that its R&D line is expected to produce about 200 monochrome OLEDs per day.
Varitronix's close proximity to the China mainland is serving the company well. It has a co-development agreement with Peking University to develop highly efficient, stable organic materials for new-generation OLEDs, and has also signed an agreement with Chinese University of Hong Kong to co-develop new processes, device structures and materials.
From its outset in 1978, Varitronix has been a research-driven company, working with customers to develop advanced LCD products for a broad range of markets, including sophisticated commercial, industrial, medical and military displays. These range from simple LCDs to complete turnkey assemblies. Founded by a group of academics from Hong Kong universities, Varitronix has become one of the world's leading LCD manufacturers.
"Varitronix brings strong credentials of seasoned research and manufacturing, along with marketplace savvy, adding to the momentum that OLED technology has been gaining since the late 1990s," said Leslie Polgar, president of Display Products for Eastman Kodak.
Last November, DuPont Displays, another OLED heavyweight, agreed to provide Varitronix with passive-matrix polymer-based OLED glass cells. In turn, Varitronix will manufacture a complete OLED display module on glass. The completed modules will be marketed by DuPont Displays and by Varitronix to select customers.