Why? The glass and epoxy strategy may have worked for small format OLEDs – cell phones, smartphones, mp3 players, etc. But:
• The consensus is that these materials will not be sufficient for the larger-format OLEDs that are now growing in market share;
• Nor are these materials compatible with flexible and/or conformable OLEDs; and
• Although it has been relatively easy to achieve the barrier performance goals for small devices, it has been very difficult to scale up the technology for high-volume commercial production of larger panels for OLED lighting and TV displays. It is not just the fact that OLED TV displays and lighting panels are large, but that such products are expected to last longer than cell phones and mp3 players.
The new OLED markets have much higher product lifetime expectations, hence more sophisticated encapsulation technologies with better performance are required to enable real growth.
As a result of the trend toward large panels, NanoMarkets believes that:
• We are now looking at some real opportunities for the firms that have been working on the encapsulation issue, many of whom have poured resources into this area for several years.
• Furthermore, the opportunity space for these firms will only get better when conformable and flexible OLEDs start to make it to the market, which we expect to happen in perhaps four to five years. Truly flexible displays have yet to take off, and the lack of cost-effective encapsulation technologies capable of meeting the strict water and oxygen permeation barrier requirements is at least partially to blame. Firms in the lighting and display industry are therefore beginning to see encapsulation as an area of strategic importance and are looking increasingly at specialized value-added encapsulation materials to meet their needs.
Currently, displays that can be flexed in one or two dimensions are a huge challenge to the encapsulation business, but one that potentially will generate a lot of revenues to those encapsulation providers that can bring stable encapsulation solutions to this performance dimension. NanoMarkets believes that even conformable OLEDs, which are closer to market than truly flexible ones, present an opportunity for encapsulation firms.