EETimes.com – Ex-Apple expat leads Samsung’s OLED TV push

EETimes.com – Ex-Apple expat leads Samsung’s OLED TV push.

GIHEUNG, Korea — When you travel all the way to Giheung, Korea, the last thing you expect is to meet an ex-Apple engineer who has morphed into a hotshot at Samsung Electronics, committed to pushing OLED for large-size TVs.Meet Brian Berkeley, vice president of OLED R&D Center at Samsung Mobile Display Co.

In the exclusive global circle of OLED experts, Berkeley is the closest thing to a “rock star,” according to Joe Abelson, vice president of displays research at iSuppli. Berkeley’s presence in Giheung speaks volumes about Samsung’s commitment to lead the industry by recruiting the best and the brightest from all over the world, Abelson observed.

Berkeley, whose passion is flat panel display technology, left Apple and a comfortable home of Saratoga, Calif. in Nov., 2003, and he relocated — along with his family — to Korea, indefinitely.

Samsung, the world’s largest LCD panel manufacturer, is increasingly confident in the future of OLEDs — not just for smart phone’s displays, for which Samsung is the biggest manufacturer and supplier, but for large-size TVs, especially 3-D TV.

At Samsung, OLED TV is no longer a “science fair” project. Samsung’s faith in the technology is backed by the company’s volume production experience of OLED displays over the last 18 months.

Ever since the company began large-scale OLED mass production in late 2008, “We have significantly improved yields and line efficiency,” claimed Berkeley. “Material developments have been accelerated, backplane technology improved and a number of advancements made in color patterning.” Without divulging any specifics of the “unique solutions” developed by Samsung, Berkeley said, “Large-size OLED TVs are viable.”

Samsung brought together all its OLED development teams under one roof in January, 2009, by establishing a new company called Samsung Mobile Display (SMD). SMD, now with 400 people, is no longer, by any standards, a skunkworks.

Through joint financing from Samsung Electronics and Samsung SDI, SMD is set up to “draw upon Samsung Electronics’ market-leading capabilities for LCD panels and its large-scale Active Matrix OLED R&D, and from Samsung SDI’s AM OLED mass production technology and its development capabilities for LCD modules,” according to Samsung.

Indeed, SMD already created the world’s only high-volume OLED manufacturing line (a Gen 4 plant in Cheonan), with $3 billion revenue in 2009. In 2010, 20 percent of smart phones are projected to use OLED for their displays. By 2015, 50 percent of smart phones will be using OLED, predicted Samsung.

Still, the transition from making OLED for mobile screens to production for large-scale TV requires huge advancements in technology.

OLED has always been the darling of technical conferences like the Society of Information Display (SID). It holds the promise of the thinner, brighter and greener (more efficient) displays. And yet, for established applications — such as large-screen TVs, existing technologies (i.e. LCD TVs) have always seemed a step ahead of OLED, leaving the dream of OLED perpetually tantalizing.

Samsung’s Berkeley noted, “We are not saying that OLEDs will replace LCDs.” However, he stressed that Active-Matrix OLED (AMOLED) “needs no backlight, no color filter and no second glass (like an LCD panel does).” That makes OLED a low cost alternative.

Further, when compared to PDPs and LCDs, AMOLED is “the only display that is both self-emissive and active matrix,” he added. “OLED is green and it is getting even greener.”

Berkeley, however, acknowledged that mass production of large-size OLEDs has its challenges.

OLEDs, which are ‘current’-controlled devices, have additional backplane requirements, needing high mobility substrates and tighter threshold voltage. For OLEDs, he noted that the “smart money” has given up on amorphous-silicon. It needs poly-silicon. OLEDs also need better gate insulators, said Berkeley. “SiNx is not adequate.”

Berkeley asked a rhetorical question: “Can this be done?” He answered, “SMD has achieved all of the above at Gen 4.”

But still, for large-screen OLEDs, developers must increase beam length from the currently used 450mm to 623 mm for 46-inch screens. It also needs high laser power, accurate control, high precision optics and high system throughput, Berkeley explained.

In sum, though, he said, “OLED backplane scale-up is under way; OLED emission color patterning scale-up is also underway.”

Berkeley originally came to Korea in 2003 for LCD research. But “the most exciting thing right now is OLED,” he noted.

Even before talking about the future of OLEDs for flexible devices that can be folded or rolled for storage, Berkeley firmly believes that “OLED 3-D TV is superior to LCD 3-D TV.” He said, “There will be no ghost images and it can offer eye-popping good quality.”

It’s mainly because fast OLED response time leads to complete separation of left and right images. Berkeley pointed out the upcoming SID’s session 51 (scheduled on May 27th) on 3-D TV and 3-D Video, in which SMD will present a “novel simultaneous emission drive scheme for crosstalk-free 3-D AMOLED TV.”

Berkely also noted that his boss, Sang Soo Kim, Samsung fellow and executive vice president at SMD, will be a keynote speaker at this year’s SID, discussing “The Next Big Things in Displays.”

SID, held in Seattle this year, opens next week on May 25th.

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