Q&A with the CEO of MicroLED driver and backplane developer SAPIEN

SAPIEN Semiconductors, based in Korea, is a fabless design company that provides innovative PWM CMOS backplane and µ-driver ICs for Micro-LED displays. The company utilizes its own patented technologies to achieve lower power consumption, lower leakage, better repairability and improved testability.

In the following interview, we discuss the company’s technology and business with its CEO, Myunghee Lee.

Q: Hello Mr. Lee, thank you for your time. Can you give us a short introduction to SAPIEN and your microLED technologies?

SAPIEN specializes in developing CMOS Backplane SoCs (System-on-Chip) for Micro-LED display applications. SAPIEN was founded in 2017 by industry veterans who have over 230 years of combined design experience in Display Driver ICs (DDI).

Vuzix launches its microLED display engines using JBD microdisplays

Vuzix have officially launched its microLED display engines. These tiny (<0.4 cc and only 6.2 mm wide) devices offer over 2 million nits and feature 1 um pixels. Vuzix did not detail the resolution, but it less than HD (so likely to something like VGA or so).

Vuzix says that samples of the new engines are now available upon request. These are monochrome devices, and one would have to use three (red, green, and blue) for a full color display. Vuzix is developing full-color and higher-resolution (HD) engines. Vuzix says that its next-generation smart glasses will adopt these devices which are now on offer to customers.

DSCC: microLED microdisplay shipments will remain low even in 2026

DSCC says that the AR and VR markets are set for quick growth, and display sales for AR and VR devices will grow at a CAGR of 52% between 2020 and 2026, to reach $4.2 billion in sales (up from $347 million in 2020). This forecast does not include military applications.

AR and VR display technology market share forecast (2022-2026, DSCC)

The main bulk of the market will remain displays for VR, as actual see-through AR will remain a relatively small market even in 2026. DSCC see microLED technologies providing a breakthrough in this market, but actual microLED display shipments will remain low, around 5%. The market will be dominated by OLED microdisplays.

Compound Photonics partners with GLOBALFOUNDRIES to produce its microLED microdisplay backplanes

In 2020 Compound Photonics (CP) announced its high-performance IntelliPix microLED microdisplay backplane technology. CP's backplane supports resolutions up to 2048x2048 and a pixel pitch from 1.5 um and up.

Compound Photonics IntelliPix microLED microdisplay on wafer

Compound Photonics now announced a partnership with specialty foundry GLOBALFOUNDRIES (GF) to produce the IntelliPix backplanes. CP's devices will be realized on GF’s best-in-class 22FDX specialty semiconductor platform.

MicroLED microdisplay developer MICLEDI raised 7.1 million Euro

Belgium-based microLED microdisplay developer MICLEDI announced that it has raised 7 million Euro from FPIM and KBC Focus Fund. The funds will enable the company to transition from the pilot line technology development to product design and subsequently to the manufacturing phase.

MICLEDI's team at imec

MICLEDI reveals that its next steps will be to demonstrate its native-RGB microLED display on 300 mm wafers, prepare its technology IP for transfer to a foundry partner for manufacturing and launch its product development phase.

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Vuzix announces it is using JBD's microLED displays, teases its upcoming microLED AR glasses

Last year, smart glasses developer Vuzix announced that it will release its first microLED microdisplay powered AR glasses in 2021. The company today announced that it is using JBD's microdisplays, and has published the video you see below which shows the new glasses.

Vuzix revealed that it has entered into a multi-year agreement with JBD (Jade Bird Display) to collaborate on the co-development and cross-supply of solutions incorporating microLED display engines and Vuzix waveguides. Under the agreement, JBD will provide microLED displays and Vuzix will provide newly developed proprietary waveguides and display engine optics to work with these displays.

Yole sees impressive growth for OLED and MicroLED microdisplays in the near future

Yole Développement (Yole) says that the microdisplay market is set for impressive growth in the next few years. By 2025, the total market will reach $4.2 billion in revenues (CAGR from 2020 to 2025 at 100%), while microdisplays for AR headsets will generate $1.8 billion.

Plessey native InGaN red microLED photo (CES 2020)

This optimistic forecast has a warning though - it all depends whether next-generation display technologies will deliver on their promises - and whether actual use-cases will be found and commercialized.

Digitimes: Foxconn is developing microLED based AR glasses

According to Digitimes, Foxconn is developing its own AR glasses product, which it hopes to launch in 2022. The report says that Foxconn will first target smart retail, factories and medical care for its AR system.

Digitimes also says that these AR glasses will be based on microLED microdipslays, which are being developed by EOSRL (part of ITRI). EOSRL apprantly developed its own blue-light 5-micron LED technology with QD color conversion that enable it to produce 2000 PPI displays. First displays are expected to be produced in Q1 2021.