Barrier Films and Thin Film Encapsulation for Flexible and/or Organic Electronics 2018-2028

Film Exhibition:To provide with you the latest industry news】

What this report offers

This report offers a detailed technology analysis assessing R2R multilayer barrier (MLB) film technologies, various inline thin film encapsulation (TFE) techniques, R2R spatial atomic layer deposition (s-ALD), flexible glass and more.

For all these technologies, IDTechEx reviews the latest progress in performance and commercialization, examines the key remaining challenges, identifies and highlights the latest commercial activities, and overviews the key active companies. This technical analysis is crucial because most barrier technologies remain technically constrained given the challenging market requirements in terms of performance, flexibility, thinness, cost, and so on.

Our technology assessment offers a critical benchmarking of the various existing and emerging solutions and gives its view as to how the technology mix will be transformed in each application sector over the short-, medium- and long-terms.

This report provides detailed application analysis, focusing on plastic and/or flexible displays, large-area OLED lighting, quantum dot displays, organic photovoltaics and other flexible PVs, and more. For each application, we provide a detailed assessment of the application itself, looking at its past, present and future. Here, we outline the technical and commercial challenges and prospects at the application-level and analyse the role that the barrier can play in aiding or hindering further commercial progress. This is a critical chapter because different applications have different needs in terms of performance, cost, flexibility, and size.

We also provide ten-year market forecasts, in sqm and value, segmented by technology as well as by application. This enables one to understand which technologies will win in what applications, and why. It also helps plan by knowing short-, medium-, and long-term market sizes for various barrier technologies.  Note that our forecasts are built up our detailed technical know-how, our long-standing engagement with the community, and our deep understanding of all its end use markets. Our costs projections are based on our inhouse bottom-up cost models.

Finally, throughout the report, we identify and assess the progress made by different companies and leading research institutes in developing barrier film or TFE technologies. This enables you to develop a solid understanding of the value chain.

Report Overview

It took a decade and half to enable the first commercial products using a flexible barrier or thin film encapsulation technologies. Contrary to some assumptions however, this success does not mean that the question of barrier technology is forever settled.  Indeed, there is still much work to do to render flexible barrier technology a ubiquitous, widely-available, and low-cost component in devices of all sizes, sensitivity levels, flexibility degrees, and so on.

Technology View

Multilayer barrier (MLB) films:Many companies are developing a variant of this approach in which multiple pairs of inorganic-organic materials are deposited.  These companies differ in terms of the materials they have chosen, the processes they have developed and the production and commercial readiness levels they have reached. Many such companies have had to pioneer solutions to overcome the considerable challenges in R2R production of MLB films. MLB films are today in a challenging market spot: displays, for now, have switched to inline whereas other target markets are still in the making. Some consider that they might go obsolete before ever seeing market daylight. We, however, asses that the future remains attractive, particularly as low-cost and large-area solutions.

Inline thin film encapsulation:This is an evolution of the MLB approach. Here, the multilayer is formed inline directly and conformally over the device. As such, there is no additional substrate and adhesive, leading to thin devices. Here, the challenge is lowering TACT time and boosting yield. The latter is key because defects waste not just the film, but the entire device. Inline TFE is already commercial since around 2014 on rigid plastic displays. It is however now preparing to enable the transition to flexible/bendable devices. To do this, the materials and processes have had to evolve, reducing layer numbers, improving film quality, and minimising built-in stress. These evolutions must continue to reduce bending radius, to migrate to larger devices, and to accept direct in-cell touch layers.

Atomic layer deposition: Temporal batch ALD already yields single inorganic layers whose intrinsic WVTR exceeding requirements. These processes are however slow and unproductive since half-cycles are time separated. Today, many are developing roll-to-roll spatial ALD in which half cycles are separated in space. These promise to yield high performance thin films without compromising TACT time. This is a developing technology frontier where multiple pioneering challenges with machine and process designs are yet to be overcome. Despite this, s-ALD will remain a strong technology contender either as a hybrid in an MLB structure or as a stand-alone layer.

Flexible glass: This technology promises excellent barrier performance, high temperature processing and chemical stability. It is however not as flexible as others and remains difficult to handle given that it can shatter, a major problem in vacuum systems. Significant progress is however being made in terms of supressing stress and improving handling. Questions about final cost and volume availability also still hang over this technology which was first introduced to the market almost a decade ago. Despite this, our assessment is that patient development with a long-term strategy will ultimately bring major success, positioning flexible glass as a high-performance substrate-and-barrier-in-one choice.

The figure above shows our market forecast, split by technology, in $M. Note that exact figures are available in the report. Further note that the order in which the legend is shown does not correspond sequentially to the figure.

Application View

Displays: First major success for inline TFE came around 2014 when it was used in rigid plastic OLED phones.  This technology is now being readied for bendable displays too. Our report forecasts the market for barrier technologies in plastic and flexible OLED displays. This is a significant market. Indeed, flexible displays are finally on the cusp of commercialization, likely creating a long-lasting new technology paradigm.

How large will these markets be in sqm and value terms?  Inline TFE will dominate in flexible small-sized devices but can it transition to large-area screens? And importantly how will the inline TFE technology itself adapt in terms of materials and processes for top and bottom barriers?

Quantum dot displays: Quantum dot (QD) enhancement films are a commercial success. Their main competitor- edge optic QD- is basically obsolete. In addition, a transition away from toxic Cd based QDs has taken place, thus lifting the legislative cloud of uncertainty from over the industry.But many questions abound: will continued improvements in QD air stability relax barrier performance requirements, thus shrinking the market in value terms? QD displays will grow but can film-type integration keep its monopoly, or will it be replaced by other approaches such as color filter or on-chip type QDs? In total, how large will the market be in sqm and value terms? Who are the key players today?

OLED lighting: The challenges facing OLED lighting are significant: large area, high brightness and long life organic devices with low defect tolerance. Furthermore, its rival technology, inorganic LEDs, arrived first and established a challenging price and performance market reference.  Despite this OLED lighting is still making progress. Its scale up, in sheet-to-sheet (S2S) evaporated production, has reached Gen5 level. Factory investment in wide-format R2R production has also been made some years ago.But given the challenges, will OLED lighting ever be commercialized? If so, what is the likely market size in short-, medium- and long-terms? Given the cost and size requirements, which barrier technologies are being used now and which will win in the future? Who are the key players today?

Organic photovoltaics (OPVs): OPVs long had a seductive value proposition but reality has been harsher so far. The first companies fanned the flames of hype to raise funds but struggled to raise efficiency and cut costs. In the process, they made many mistakes such as basing their production on an existing large-sized printer that could not be adopted and optimized.  In parallel, others took the patient approach of spending time to learn to process on pilot sized machine- be it solution processing or R2R evaporation- before recently embarking on scale-up which entails the development of custom equipment.

What is the past, present and future of OPV technology? Will OPVs ever become a commercial reality? If so, how large the market for barriers is likely to become? Who are the current players today and what is their production set-up? What barrier technology will win and what will be its market size?

Others: There are several other applications of flexible barrier films including other flexible photovoltaics such as CIGS and flexible electrophoretic displays. These applications have very different requirements to displays and lighting, and such as such will require different barrier solutions.

The market for barrier films and inline thin film encapsulation split by end user market. Here we show the market M sqm. Note that the shape of the figure, i.e. the relative contribution of each application, will look very different if the figure is in SM, reflecting the wide difference is barrier costs per sqm depending on applications. The exact values are contained in the report. Further note that the order in which the legend is presented here does not correspond sequentially to the chart.



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