Samsung OLEDs on the Way

A report from Digitimes last week indicate that Samsung is proceeding with plans to build medium and large OLED panels suitable for notebook computers and televisions, starting next year in 2009. The article also cites a Samsung vice-president as saying that flexible OLED displays will start production in 2010.

Samsung expects to ramp up production to 3 million units per year in 2009, about double the current capacity. Reportedly, this will enable economies of scale that will make it practical to build larger panels, rather than stick to the smaller panels designed for use in mobile devices such as cell phones and MP3 players.

This news is encouraging, but for many reasons, may be overly optimistic. There are many problems that remain to be solved for OLEDs, especially if they are to be used in long duty cycle products such as televisions. One of the most serious problems is that of differential phosphor aging. This sounds complex and technical, but basically it refers to the fact that the blue phosphors used in OLEDs fade more rapidly than the green or red phosphors. If you don’t compensate for this effect, the image turns yellow before long. If you do compensate by dialing back the brightness of the red and green, then the whole image gets dimmer sooner. Neither are acceptable solutions at this point, so the “blue phosphor problem” will have to be solved before OLED HDTVs become practical. Progress is being made on this problem, as well as on the problem of encapsulating the display to keep out the oxygen and water vapor that can ruin the panel.

It would be wonderful if Samsung will have all this ironed out by next year. However, if this is another case of raised expectations as we witnessed with the Canon/Toshiba SED technologies, failure to deliver on these target deliveries runs the risk of discrediting both the company and the technology.