If you are in the market of color TFT LCD displays and you haven’t already been affected by the recent changes in the global market, then it’s just a matter of time. If you have recently asked, ‘What is going on with TFT-LCD panel prices lately?’, you are not alone. Here at Phoenix Display we have had a lot of questions regarding the TFT-LCD panel price increase that the market is seeing. We want to help explain what is happening, why it’s happening, and what to expect in the near future so that you can be aware of the effects and adjust accordingly.In recent months there has developed a fair amount of uncertainty in regards to manufacturing conditions for TFT panels at the TFT glass fab level. This has caused a lot of fluctuation and volatility in both the supply and price of TFT panels. We are seeing that the price of TFTs has increased from 25% to 70% on average, and have seen some instances of a 2.5 times increase for the less common configurations. Combined with the fact that lead time is now only confirmed upon placing an actual order with payment in advance, in makes planning and producing around your color display product even more challenging.
What’s Really Happening in the TFT-LCD Panel Market?
One of the important things to realize with regards to TFT market conditions is that flat TFT panels in almost every size are currently in short supply. This is the first time this has happened in almost 20 years.
Some of the larger panel manufactures are exiting TN TFT manufacturing to focus on newer, more profitable technologies. The market has seen a trend towards low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) TFT LCD panels, which provide customers lower power consumption along with higher resolution, along with a big shift into OLED to support wearables, the latest smart phone designs, and even the flat panel Television market as well.
What Does the Future Hold?
In 2016 there has been a rise in the proportion of LTPS/Oxide TFT smartphone panel shipment production, rising to 34.6% market share compared to 29.8% in 2015. In the coming year we expect to see a variety of panel makers including CSOT, Taiwanese AUO, Chinese Tianma, and Japanese JDI, roll out new LTPS capacities eclipsing and impacting conventional TFT manufacturing. In May the industry had a shortage of television panels which was followed by a similar supply-demand dynamic for notebook and smartphone small panels. This was largely due to JDI, LG Display Co. and Samsung Display Inc., shutting down their production lines in these verticals.
In the last 5 months the TFT cell glass cost has been rapidly increasing, largely due to the influence of upstream LCD panel maker’s supply. As a result of these market fluctuations almost all TFT mother glass suppliers have increased their pricing across the board. Due to these new market impacts, we highly doubt that any of the major TFT mother glass manufacturers will reopen lines that have previously been closed. In fact, current trends lend us to believe that if these lines were ever reopened, they would be used for OLED production rather than TFT. We believe that the capacities problems the market is seeing is not a short-term problem, and will likely not ease until the second quarter of 2017, at the earliest. This leaves the current state of the market in a fair amount of turmoil as the suppliers battle the glass shortage and while offloading the increased cost to manufacturers.
While there is a trend at the manufacturing level to diversify away from traditional color TN TFT LCD display, the positive is there is still be a strong market for this product for years to come due to TN TFTs lower cost advantage and availability. In short, we don’t see TFT displays going away any time soon, but we will be impacted by higher costs and longer lead times for the near future.
What Can You Do?
You’ve already taken the first step by educating yourself on the issue. By preparing your business and supply chain for the increase in price and decrease in supply which lead to longer lead-times, you can mitigate potential delays and issues in your production. If you have any additional questions about TFT panels or any other standard or custom display needs, please contact us today!