OLEDs Ready for Prime Time?

OLEDs are one of the most promising novel display technologies, especially for HDTVs. They have the brightness, and viewing angle of a traditional CRT, but also the fine detail from the physical pixels like an LCD. And the OLED panels can be a fraction of the thickness and weight of an LCD or plasma panel. A number of technological problems remain to be worked out, but progress is being made.

Samsung has made enough progress that the are ready to go into production. Last week, the company announced plans to start mass production of full-color OLEDs in the first quarter of next year. They intend to produce 1.5 million units per month (though they didn’t specify what size those units will be). Samsung has demonstrated prototype OLED HDTVs as large as 40-inches in the past, however, and the plant reportedly will use substrates that are about 30 by 37.5 inches, which could yield a single 40-inch panel, though they also could be used to produce many smaller displays for mobile phones. The company plans to increase production to 4 million units per month by the fourth quarter next year.

Samsung has announced plans to produce OLED panels before; they promised an OLED TV for 2005 that never materialized. This new announcement involves construction of a product line, however, so there is more reason to expect them to deliver this time. Don’t expect the ramp up of production to be smooth, as nasty surprises will undoubtedly arise. But 2007 could be the year that large OLED displays start to appear on the market in significant quantities.