Shown avove is a 5-inch curved OLED TV that uses LG Display's technology. LG Display identified the OLED business as its next cash generator to beat the industry's cyclical patterns. / Korea Times file
Firm releases displays with bendable screens
By Kim Yoo-chul
LG Display is expected to solidify its leadership in the display market as it will mass-produce a new flexible smartphone panel for major clients from the fourth quarter of this year.
Technicians and researchers at LG say this new development is an effort to meet growing demand for innovative business solutions.
LG spokesman Frank Lee said that his company is looking to meet "the rapid need for display advancements." Lee stressed upcoming flexible displays, which are bendable and unbreakable, could be the next innovation in display-making technology.
According to the company, LG is investing in flexible displays for mobile devices and new high-tech panels, called organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels, which support ultra high-definition (UHD).
"We have completed the development of our first flexible displays. We will mass produce flexible displays from the fourth quarter of this year," the company said in a statement to The Korea Times.
Company officials said its E2 line at its display complex in Paju is going to handle the production of flexible displays.
"We will apply a 4.5th generation glass-cutting technology for the OLED flexible displays. Monthly capacity for the line was set as 12,000 sheets," according to the company statement.
The product comes after LG Chairman Koo Bon-moo issued a challenge to create market-leading products with the potential to revive the company.
LG Electronics, the major stakeholder of LG Display, plans to release its first flexible smartphone later this year.
Officials also hinted at selling the screens to other major mobile producers because the company predicts its flexible displays will become the latest mobile trend.
LG's competitor, Samsung Display, is reportedly working on a similar product.
Samsung Display is still testing its flexible products and trying to increase production yields. It's highly unlikely that the soon-to-be-released Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Note 3 will have a flexible screen due to manufacturing-related issues.
"Flexible OLEDs will entice handset manufacturers amid growing appetites for a vivid picture, appealing design and thinner displays. The latest development by LG Display should earn a big stake in the growing market," said Woori Investment Securities analyst Kim Yang-jae.
Kim said LG's shift toward flexible displays would help the firm beat the industry's conventional cyclical patterns, making LG one of the few companies that can steadily generate profit regardless of market uncertainties.
Aggressiveness in OLEDs
Flexible OLEDs are just one part of LG's plan to sweep the global OLED market by increasing its investment in various business projects.
The company, which is the first to mass produce OLED screens and curved OLEDs for televisions, is in the process of developing OLED TV screens that support UHD viewing quality.
To remain competitive, LG works to cut manufacturing costs, achieve lower consumption and advanced viewing quality, said Lim Joo-soo, a manager at its OLED technology strategy division.
"LG Display is developing UHD OLED TV screens. For enhanced brightness, we plan to switch the existing ‘bottom-emission' tech into ‘top-emission' tech. The company also has interests in developing materials that can help OLED applications extend their lifespan," said Lim.
As OLED TVs go mainstream within the next few years, LG is expanding its panel sizes to 65 inches and 77 inches.
According to LG officials, the 65-inch and 77-inch OLED panels will be produced at its M1 pilot line inside the P9 factory in Paju. The M1 line will house more equipment to produce bigger screens, and the M2 line will be mass-produced starting next year.
"This is a strategic decision and it makes sense. With LG's strong client base and LG Electronics' television business improving, having an affordable lineup will pay off," said Woori analyst Kim.
LG Display is involved in a legal battle with Samsung Display over Samsung's alleged involvement to steal LG's OLED patents.
Officials at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said they plan to interview Samsung executives and ex-Samsung employees to investigate the claim. The investigation should be finished in the next two months.