Sony set the pace with the launch of its AM-OLED TV last year, now momentum appears to be growing among TV manufacturers in the race towards mass producing larger OLED screens.

According to recent reports in Japanese newspapers, Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) has set internal directives to start offering OLED TVs by 2011.

The company intends to use its R&D center in Kyoto as a base for a manufacturing plant solely for OLED panels.
By next spring, the first prototype OLED TVs with a screen size of around 20 inches are expected to be produced there.
Mass production of OLED TVs with a screen size of 40 inches and more is scheduled for 2011 in a factory in near Kobe in central Japan.

Panasonic has said 200 engineers will be assigned exclusively for the development of the next-generation displays.
While not denying the reports, the electronics firm did say: “Panasonic is continuing R&D on OLED panels with an eye toward the future development of the Himeji plant. At this time, there is nothing decided about how this R&D will develop into a specific business operation.”

Meanwhile, activity in the OLED field seems to be having an effect on AU Optronics.
The Taiwanese display panel manufacturer is reportedly considering re-opening its OLED product line.

LJ Chen, president and COO of AUO indicated that the company has been monitoring the development of OLED technologies and, as they improve, is interested in re-opening its production line although a possible time-line is still unclear.

HB Chen, vice-Chairman and CEO added that although AUO will not re-open the production line in 2008, the company will showcase its OLED developments in Yokohama, Japan in October this year

But how realistic are the industry’s hopes for mainstream production of OLED TVs?

Vinita Jakhanwal, principal analyst for mobile displays at iSuppli Corp, said the key factors determining the success of OLED in the market will be the display industry’s capability to address key issues like manufacturing costs, material lifetime and efficiency.

“Furthermore, given that OLEDs are LCD replacements, the technology at least initially will be subjected to the price pressures placed on it by competing LCD panel products,” he said.

LCD TV makers are introducing thinner models to compete with the flatter-than-flat OLEDs and other OLED products are making their way to market.

These include an OLED-based DVD Global Positioning System (GPS) device for car navigation.

Among the other initiatives is the collaborative push to promote the technology by some big name electronics firms and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

Ten companies including Sony, Sharp, Toshiba and Matsushita (Panasonic) are collaborating on the five-year effort, which will likely cost ¥3.5 billion (US$32.8 million).

The project is aimed at “developing a core technology to mass-produce 40-inch or larger OLED displays in the late 2010s”.

The positive response to Sony’s launch of an AM-OLED TV late last year has built momentum in the industry.

While small, the display quality of the AM-OLED TV is superior to anything anyone had seen to date—and extremely flat.

Sony is now expanding on its OLED portfolio with a 3.5-inch, 0.2mm-thick panel that will be used in high-end mobile devices.
The company has also released in Japan the 11 inch Sony XEL-1, which is expected to reach European markets in 2009.

We are always interested in hearing your views – when and who will be first to market with a 40 inch OLED TV?

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