TFT LCD panel suppliers are rejuvenating their large-area panel business plans this year as the market demand for key applications grows. According to the latest DisplaySearch Quarterly Large-Area TFT Panel Shipment Report, TFT panel suppliers are forecast to ship 718 million large area (9-inch-and-larger) panels, an increase of 3 percent over the previous year. Due to recent panel price increases, and TVs with larger average area sizes, large-area TFT LCD revenue is forecast to reach $75 billion this year.
“2013 was the first year large-area TFT LCD panel shipments and revenues declined; however, a market rebound beginning in the second quarter of 2014 has enabled panel makers to reach their business plans,” said David Hsieh, vice president of the greater China market for DisplaySearch, now part of IHS. ”Strong growth in the average sizes of LCD TVs, and inventory shortages in those sizes, have transformed the industry atmosphere, enabling panel makers to increase prices and expand shipment volumes.
According to DisplaySearch LCD TV panel shipments reached an historic high of 64 million units in the second quarter (Q2) of 2014, which revealed stronger-than-expected momentum in downstream inventory preparation. The following quarter, shipments were even higher, reaching a new record high of 65 million units.
Panel technology improvements that bolstered shipments included 4K panels, super-slim bezels, higher transmittance open-cell technology, higher resolutions, in-plane switching (IPS) and fringe-field switching (FFS), ultra-slim and lightweight form factors, and higher color gamut. Other recent improvements in integration included up-scaling circuitry, touch screens and mechanical parts.
OLED panels for high-resolution tablet PCs (e.g., 280-360 PPI) is expected to reach 5 million units in 2014, which is a new milestone for the category. “2013 was a year of convergence, between inventory adjustments and panel value upgrades, which set the stage for better results this year, in a tightening market with a surge in panel shipments,” Hsieh said.
According to panel makers’ business plans, shipments of notebook PCs and mini-note panels are forecast to reach nearly 197 million units this year, which is a 5 percent year-over-year growth rate. In the first half of this year, panel makers’ conservative estimates for notebook PC panels induced a shortage.
Beginning in 2013 panel makers upgraded to full-high-definition (FHD) and other high-resolution formats, and they also began to adopt flat light-guide backlight plates for ultra-slim panels. Slim and ultra-slim notebook PC panels comprised 76 percent of shipments in the third quarter of 2014.
Smartphone cannibalization of tablet PC sales, and the maturity of the smaller tablet PCs, has encouraged tablet PC panel makers to increase shipments of 9-inch-and-larger screens, which increased 9 percent in 2014 over the previous year.
“AMOLED has been successfully introduced in the tablet PC market, to accommodate higher color gamut, increase slimness and reduced weight, in order to maximize the future potential of more flexible form factor designs,” Hsieh said.
Due to the maturity of the desktop PC market, and the slow replacement cycle for these devices, overall shipments of LCD monitor panels fell 5 percent to 153 million units in 2014, which is the lowest level since 2006. Panel makers are now planning to shift to larger sizes, and they expect to add more value-added products of various sizes and higher resolutions, including 2560×1440 and 4K LCD monitors.
LCD TV panel shipments are expected to grow 5 percent this year, reaching 249 million units. On an area basis, LCD TV shipment area is expected to increase 15 percent, year over year, from 97 million square meters in 2013 to 112 million square meters in 2014; meanwhile, manufacturers are also planning to ship more than 20 million 4K TV panels this year.
The market for LCD public displays is expected to grow 39 percent this year, due to the demise of plasma display panels, and the strong momentum for digital signage. “Industrial applications and soaring growth in larger automotive displays is also pushing large-area TFT growth,” Hsieh noted.
The DisplaySearch Quarterly Large Area TFT Panel Shipment Report covers the entire range of large-area panels shipped worldwide and regionally, with complete coverage of panel makers. For more information about the report, please contact your regional DisplaySearch office.