Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Market Dynamics in China

Monday, May 16, 2011. It was really exciting to see such a great turnout for this year's annual SID Business Conference organized by DisplaySearch. As usual, DisplaySearch did a great job organizing a program that highlighted some of the most dynamic areas of the marketplace, including infrastructure investment and emerging markets in China and 3D technology expansion.

In the opening session, analysts Paul Semenza and Jennifer Colegrove broke down the overall display marketplace and then did a fairly deep dive into the details of the very powerful, growing end user/consumer market in China, as well as the build-out of display manufacturing infrastructure that is well underway. A growing number of well-known major FPD manufacturers are investing in fabs and assembly plants within China. Over the next few years, as many as nine new full-scale LCD fabrication facilities could be coming on line if all the current plans are realized. The goal, at least in part, is the huge consumer base in China that is starting to enjoy economic benefit to adopt all the electronic gadgets these displays go into, including handheld devices and TVs. Added to this picture is the growing investment in OLED technology, and we learned about several new OLED manufacturing investments that are being planned, downstream and incremental from the core TFT lines already mentioned.

In order to support this build-out, the entire supply chain has to be developed and Mr. Frank Shao of Tianma Micro-Electronics Co. provided more details about the current weakness of the materials supply chain in China -- components such as polarizers, color filters, glass, and of course, the fab equipment itself, is generally all made only outside of China and all this investment will also be required to achieve a fully supported industry. At least one supplier, Corning, spoke directly about its plans to make major investments in conjunction with the new fab build-outs, as it has done in other countries.

An interesting take-away from the morning session was the apparent split between some companies building LTPS TFT fabrication and others staying with a-Si TFT lines, which can be interpreted to mean that there is significant confidence in oxide TFTs. Oxide TFTs can be made with only minor changes on traditional a-Si lines, whereas LTPS is a very different process and equipment model. This will be something we'll be watching more closely over the next few years. – Stephen Atwood, Executive Editor, Information Display.

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