Currently, Mini LED displays are widely favored in markets such as TVs, IT displays, and automobiles. Statistics show that the global Mini LED market will grow to .32 billion USD by 2024, and 5.9 billion USD by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 86.6% from 2019 to 2025, of which Mini LED backlights will contribute the main market revenue.
Under the condition that the terminal needs to be continuously improved, the Mini LED display technology is also changing. Previously, Mini LED display panels mainly used PCB or FPC substrates, which are inherited from the LED backlight industry, so the technology is relatively mature. However, as a kind of LCD panel, Mini LED backlight technology is under great pressure to reduce costs, and small-pitch LEDs require a better substrate platform. Therefore, the industry is currently focusing on glass substrates commonly used in traditional LCDs. .
Why manufacturers select to use glass substrates?
In the process of making TFT-LCD panel, glass substrate is an important raw material. Traditional glass substrates for liquid crystals are mainly made of quartz powder, strontium carbonate, barium carbonate, boric acid, tin oxide, zinc oxide and other materials, with the characteristics of high temperature resistance, high pressure resistance and acid and alkali resistance.
In addition to TFT-LCD, in fact OLED is also using glass substrates. The flatness of the glass-based panel is better, the process precision is higher, and the coefficient of thermal conductivity is 6 times that of traditional PCB materials. However, with the optimization of PCB board material, solder mask color, performance processing, and wiring, the industry unanimously chose PCB substrates in the initial commercialization of Mini LED. At present, this solution is still the mainstream of the industry. Even in the early stage of Micro LED commercial use, it is still faced with the choice of glass substrate or PCB substrate.
So, why is the current industry investing heavily in glass-based Mini LED display technology?
The main reason is that the glass substrate has a high thermal conductivity, which can dissipate heat better, and the advantages are more obvious in thin and highly integrated end products. Glass substrates can also meet more complex wiring requirements on soldered products with higher density. The flatness of the glass substrate is higher. In addition to being suitable for Mini LED backlighting, it is theoretically more conducive to the mass transfer of Micro-LEDs.
However, the glass substrate also has weakness. The efficiency of sputtering coating is low, and the graphics yield needs to be improved. In addition, the glass substrate is made of plain glass, which is fragile and vulnerable. Slight physical scratches will affect the yield rate, and a better process platform is needed.
For major manufacturers, glass substrates become their choices
At present, the major manufacturers who launching MLED display products on glass substrates in the global market include BOE, TCL CSOT, Samsung, Skyworth, etc.
On December 2, 2022, WG-tech grandly launched the 0OD 34-inch curved glass-based backlight product which is mainly aimed at top-level gaming LCD products. It achieves an unprecedented ultra-thin experience. Besides, it also launched Mini LED backlight products suitable for vehicle central control – 12.3-inch AM Mini LED glass-based lamp panel backlight and other solutions.
Chairman Yi Weihua of WG-tech said that the company has achieved outstanding results in the fields of glass-based Mini LED backlight, TGV (Through Glass Via Interconnection), new energy, new materials (CPI/PI), and new displays (Micro).
At the end of 2022, BOE (BOE) released the industry’s first LTPS P0.9 glass-based MLED display product and took the lead in mass production. In October 2022, BOE announced that the company plans to invest about 29 billion yuan in the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Zone to invest in the construction of a sixth-generation new semiconductor display device production line project applying LTPO technology. Its main target products are VR display product panels and MLED display substrate markets.
Growing demand for glass substrates drive the process of domestic substitution in China
The downstream demand for panels is booming, and the application fields such as TV, IT, and vehicles drive demand to continue to rise. According to data, the global demand for display glass substrates in 2019 was 592 million square meters, and the demand reached 600 million square meters by 2020, with a CAGR of more than 4.5% from 2016 to 2020.
According to the latest data from MarketWatch, the global LCD glass substrate market is valued at 7.538 billion USD in 2020, and is expected to reach 10.09 billion USD by 2026, with a CAGR of 4.2% from 2021 to 2026.
With the transfer of the panel industry to the mainland, the mainland’s panel industry has ushered in a golden period of development, and the glass substrate market has also developed rapidly.
In 2019, the glass substrate market size was 20.309 billion yuan with a year-on-year increase of 17.3% in China. The demand for glass substrates in China is mainly based on TFT-LCD glass substrates. In 2019, the demand for TFT-LCD glass substrates is about 323 million square meters, a year-on-year increase of 24.26%, and the growth rate is rapid.
Although the market concentration is high, Chinese manufacturers still cover less market share.
The manufacturing process of glass substrates is complicated, with high technical threshold, and the core technology is only mastered by a few countries. The major global suppliers include Corning of the United States, AGC and NEG of Japan, and SCHOTT of Germany, etc.
On the supply side, currently Chinese manufacturers engaged in the production of glass substrates mainly include Dongxu Optoelectronic Technology, Triumph Technology, etc., and concentrate on low-generation lines. There are fewer manufacturers that can produce high-generation glass substrates, and most of them rely on cooperating with international giants.
On the demand side, the market demand for glass substrates in China reached 260 million square meters in 2018, of which the demand for glass substrates of the 8.5th generation line reached 233 million square meters, while domestic TFT-LCD glass The annual supply of substrates is less than 40 million square meters. By 2020, my country’s demand for TFT-LCD glass substrates accounted for 49.6% of the world’s total. With the transfer of the panel industry to the mainland of China, the demand for glass substrates is strong, and the domestic supply is seriously insufficient.
Domestic manufacturers have significant cost advantages, and domestic substitution is inevitable.
Compared with foreign manufacturers, domestic glass substrate manufacturers have significant cost advantages:
- Production costs are low, domestic labor costs and fuel costs are cheaper than foreign ones.
- Transportation costs are low, and domestic manufacturers have inherent geographical advantages , The nearby matching reduces the transportation risk and transportation cost.
- The domestic support for the panel industry chain is strong, and manufacturers can obtain certain government subsidies. Therefore, the price of domestic glass substrates will be significantly lower than that of imported glass substrates.
For downstream panel manufacturers, the use of domestic materials can make their costs more controllable and gain a greater price advantage in the competition. Under a clear trend of panel production capacity concentrating on the mainland, the domestic substitution of materials is the general trend.
From the perspective of industry development, industry leaders such as BOE, TCL Huaxing and other companies have long recognized the value of glass-based Mini LED, so they preemptively lay out and develop related technologies.
When the upgrade of Mini LED backlight products and Micro-LED commercial demand are superimposed, the importance of glass substrates becomes more prominent, and the material and manufacturing links are quickly followed. With the release of production capacity, glass-based Mini LED products will quickly occupy the market and drive new market demand.