Digitimes: Apple is collaborating with TSMC on Wearable/VR/laptop Micro-LED displays, first displays will enter production by early 2019

Earlier this month Bloomberg reported that Apple is progressing with its Micro-LED development project, and has already managed to produce promising display samples. Now Taiwan's Digitimes reports that Apple is collaborating with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) towards mass production of Micro-LED panels.

Apple Watch photo

Apple and TSMC are focusing on small-sized micro-LEDs on silicon based backplanes, targeting both wearable devices and AR applications. The Micro-LED microdisplays for AR applications will be around 0.7-0.8 inch in size, while the wearable panels will be larger at 1.3-1.4 inch.

eMagin: Micro-LED is not ready yet for microdisplay applications

OLED microdisplay maker eMagin reported its financial results for Q4 2017, and during the quarter's conference call its CEO, Andrew Sculley, discussed Micro-LED for microdisplays.

VueReal micro-led microdisplay prototype photoVueReal Micro-LED microdisplay prototype

eMagin actually did a research in this area with a University and has some patents towards micro-LED based microdisplays. However according to Andrew this technology still faces some challenges and it may take several years before Micro-LEDs could be applied to microdisplays - unlike TVs or larger displays which are already on the market.

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LG Display files for three new trademarks, XµLED, SµLED, and XLµLED, could be Micro-LED related

In early 2018 LG Display announced that it is developing Micro-LED displays, for large-area TVs at first. It is now revealed that LGD filed for three new trademarks in the EU, and all three seem to be related to microLEDs: XµLED, SµLED, and XLµLED.

In its filing, LGD says that these trademarks will primarily be used for smartphones, but the trademarks could also be applied to laptops, tablets, wearables and VR glasses. Interestingly LGD did not say it could be applied to TVs or large-area displays, which will probably be LGD's first Micro-LED application, so it's not really clear what these trademarks really mean.

Apple, Samsung and LG filed dozens of Micro-LED patents in Korea

The Korea Herald reports that Apple and its subsidiary LuxVue Technology applied for over 30 Micro-LED patents in Korea in the past 10 years. As Apple's Micro-LED project is progressing, the company aims to prevent its competitors in Korea (mainly Samsung and LGD) from using its key Micro-LED technology.

Luxvue MicroLED patent drawing

According to the report, Apple applied for 11 patents directly, while LuxVue applied for 23 patents. LuxVue was acquired by Apple in 2014. Apple applied for patents that related to the Micro-LED chip structure, the pick-and-place process and the driving system.

BluGlass to collaborate with a display maker and test its RPCVD production process for Micro-LED production

Australia-based RPCVD developer BluGlass announced that it has entered into a collaboration agreement with a "well-funded" microLED company to investigate the use of its Remote Plasma Chemical Vapor Deposition (RPCVD) production technology to produce RGB MicroLED devices.

p-GaN LED growth using RPCVD (BluGlass)

BluGlass estimates that Micro-LED production will benefit from its low-temperature RPCVD manufacturing solution. The two companies will work together to demonstrate proof of concept of a unique red, green and blue (RGB) microLED display application. BluGlass will be paid for its deposition services and retain all RPCVD related IP rights resulting from the collaboration.

Bloomberg: Apple's Micro-LED project is progressing, managed to produce its own Micro-LED samples

According to a report by Bloomberg, Apple is making good progress in its Micro-LED development project, and has managed to produce promising display samples. Apple is seeking to use Micro-LED displays in future wearable products.

Apple display facility (Santa Clara, California - Bloomberg)Apple display facility, Santa Clara, CA

Apple is not likely to become a MicroLED producer, and it will seek partners to eventually produce the displays. However controlling the basic technology could be very beneficial to Apple that aims to be the only company able to use Micro-LED displays - starting in wearables, but also perhaps in smartphones and VR HMDs. In any case, Bloomberg reports that it will still take a few years before Apple's technology is ready for production.

Optovate developed a technology to transfer micro-LEDs to an aligned optical array

UK-based Optovate announced that it has developed a technology that enables multiple microLEDs transferred in parallel from a wafer to a substrate to be aligned in one step with a precision optical array.

Micro-optic array and visualized light cones (2018, Optovate)

Optovate says that this technology is protected in a portfolio of 20 granted and pending patents dating from 2008. The company is now looking for display partners to commercialize its technology.

JBD details the company's micro-LED technology and plans for 2018-2019

Shanghai-based JBD is developing micro-LED based Microdisplays for near-eye and image projection applications, using the company's proprietary hybrid monolithic integration technology. JBD received a $10 million investment and developed a 5,000 PPI micro-LED array, with plans to reach 10,000 PPI.

JBD monochrome microdisplays (2017)

JBD is already offering VGA monochrome (red, green and blue) micro-LED microdisplays. LEDs Inside posted an interesting interview with JBD's CEO and CTO that discuss the company's technology and its goal for 2018 and 2019.

Micro-LED microdisplay developer VueReal raises $10.5 million

Micro-LED microdisplay developer VueReal announced the initial closing of its $10.5 million Series A funding round, led by the venture arm of a large Asian company and a leading North American vendor focused on startups with emerging technology.

VueReal micro-led microdisplay prototype photo

VueReal says that its proprietary sub-10 micrometer, high-efficiency micro-LED technology and its patented mass transfer process enables high-performance super low-power displays, coupled with a significant cost reduction.