LONDON — Plessey Semiconductor said it expects to be the first to market with a monolithic microLED based display on its GaN-on-Silicon technology. The company also moved to a technology licensing model (as opposed to just manufacturing), to become a key technology platform provider for the photonics industry.
At CES this week, Plessey is engaging with various display manufacturers and OEMs with a demonstrator to help prove its monolithic approach, and proving the brightness and addressability of the device. The company says it expects to have a prototype microLED fabricated using a GaN-on-Silicon approach at the end of this month and a product by the end of the first half of 2018.
MicroLED displays came to the forefront this week at CES in Las Vegas, with Samsung announcing its 146-inch TV using microLED technology, which enables luminous efficiency, longer light source lifetime and lower power consumption.
One of the main challenges to manufacturing microLED displays using non-monolithic methods is the placement of LED chips onto a CMOS backplane, currently achieved using pick and place equipment. This involves the individual placement of every LED on a pitch of less than 50 micron, requiring new and expensive equipment that is subject to productivity issues. As the pixel density of displays increases and pitch reduces, pick and place becomes less feasible both commercially and technically.
Moving to a monolithic process removes the need for chip placement and will enable smaller and higher resolution displays for a range of applications, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and head-up displays. As the only monolithic solution commercially available, Plessey says its technology doesn’t require pick and place equipment and isn’t subject to the associated productivity issues.
A fully monolithic approach also supports the integration of the standard CMOS circuitry necessary for driving microLED displays, as well as the close integration of high-performance GPUs, all of which can be carried out using standard CMOS manufacturing methods. By solving all the major challenges, licensees will be able to gain instant access to a technology platform that is ready for volume production.
"We made the decision to become a technology platform provider in order to get our technology out to the widest possible manufacturing base to meet this growing demand," said Michael LeGoff, Plessey's CEO. "By being the first to market with a monolithic microLED display we will be demonstrating our expertise and the ability to access our proven turnkey solution, enabling manufacturers to ramp up the development and production of microLED displays to address emerging applications."
The new licensing business model is a significant new direction for the company. "The challenge with manufacturing is in scaling production, as well as investment," said Myles Blake, Plessey's marketing director. "Hence Plessey has commenced an extensive licensing program that will see the company license out its GaN-on-Silicon expertise to microLED manufacturers in line with this new strategy of becoming the photonic industry’s foremost technology platform provider."
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