EmergingTech from Japan

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INCJ, Japan Display, Panasonic and Sony form JOLED

Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ), a government-backed investment fund, together with Japan Display Inc., Sony Corp., and Panasonic Corp., will launch a new company, JOLED Inc., in January next year, integrating the R&D functions of Sony and Panasonic for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display panels. Through this collaboration, the companies aim to accelerate development and expedite commercialization of OLED display panels.

INCJ and JDI will respectively hold 75% and 15% of the voting rights in JOLED, and Sony and Panasonic will each hold 5%. As the capital of the new company has not been announced, the scale of the investment remains an open question. Where the headquarters will be located has also yet to be disclosed. As regards the composition of JOLED's management team, INCJ intends to recruit executives knowledgeable about the display industry who do not work for the companies investing in JOLED. INCJ and Japan Display will send outside board members. The number of employees, including engineers, will be of the order of several hundred.

Integration scheme for JOLED

Panasonic and Sony will transfer R&D resources, technologies and patents to JOLED, whose business will focus on mid-sized OLED panels of around 10 inches and over for tablets and note PCs. Light weight and thinness will differentiate the new company's OLED panels from conventional LCD panels. It is envisaged that the flexible displays on JOLED's agenda will eventually amplify the advantages of its product offering.

JOLED intends to adopt oxide TFTs as the backplane of the panel and a printing method for electronic luminescent film formation. At the outset, JOLED will focus on high-resolution panels, such as a 12-inch 4K panel, with an initial target resolution of 300-400 pixels per inch. OLED panels do not require a backlight, which reduces weight greatly. So JOLED intends to offer its panels for products embodying new design concepts—note PCs weighing far less than 1kg are one idea.

Japan Display will not transfer personnel to JOLED. Instead, Japan Display will support the new company's R&D and business.

Japan Display has been developing small OLED panels, employing vapor deposition technology for film formation and low-temperature polysilicon TFT as the backplane, whereas JOLED will adopt different technologies. So Japan Display intends to continue fostering its own OLED panels in house. In terms of technology, Japan Display is expected to contribute touch panel technology to JOLED.

Sony will transfer over 100 engineers involved in OLED development to JOLED. It has already commercialized OLED monitors and electronic viewfinders. Sony will retain these businesses as well as an electronic luminance film vapor deposition line at its Higashiura plant.

Panasonic has not disclosed how many of its employees will move to JOLED. The company intends to transfer an R&D facility for mid-size OLED panels in Kyoto where Panasonic and Sony have been working together. But Panasonic intends to retain a 5G pilot line for OLED TV panels at its Himeji fab as well as R&D facilities for OLED lighting panels.

"The first step will be to invest in a pilot production line. As each company's technology has neared the volume-production level, the investment decision will be in the not-so-distant future," said Koichiro Taniyama, executive officer of INCJ.

When it comes to printing methods, Panasonic and Sony use different methods. Whether JOLED will opt for one of these technologies or something different has yet to be disclosed.

JOLED has no intention of entering the TV panel business at present, but Yasuhisa Nakao, senior executive officer of INCJ, raised the possibility, saying, "Maybe in the future." He also implied the possibility of materials and production equipment manufacturers participating in JOLED to boost development of OLED panels.

Press release:
INCJ, JDI, Sony and Panasonic announce the establishment of JOLED Inc. A new integrated company in organic light-emitting diode display panels

Related articles:
Japan Display develops 5.2-inch full HD OLED (Apr. 9, 2013)
Another 56-inch 4K OLED panel from Panasonic at CES (Jan. 9, 2013)
Sony develops 56-inch 4K OLED TV (Jan. 8, 2013)
Panasonic and Sony ally for OLED development and production (June 25, 2012)
Japan fights back in OLED as ventures, government, etc. jump in the ring (Oct. 31, 2011)
Small/mid-size LCD makers forming Japan Display with government support (sept. 2, 2011)

The original article in Japanese appeared in the June 6 issue of The Semiconductor Industry News. Translation by EmergingTech, which added the figure and links.

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