Display Week 2020: So Now That You’ve Sorted Out All The LED Acronyms, Here’s Some More

With the industry rank and file maybe, possibly starting to gets its collective head wrapped around relatively new terms like OLED, QLED, miniLED and microLED, it’s time to introduce yet more acronyms and differing display technologies that we’ll be talking about and looking at soon enough.

In clicking and scrolling my way this week around the virtual version of the display nerd trade show and conference Display Week, I came across much more chatter than a year ago about something called QD-OLED. I also saw a completely unfamiliar acronym, QNED.

Based on what I read and saw in some SID presentations, these are both technologies we may eventually see as higher-end commercial displays for signage and other visual applications.

Samsung is already investing more than $11 billion in QD-OLED, with a plant in South Korea  expected to start production as early as 2021.

The simpleton explanation of QD-OLED that works for me is that these premium displays are OLEDs, but done differently – with a Quantum Dots filter. Adding that color conversion layer¬† makes the displays brighter than “conventional” OLEDs, and brighter means richer colors and more increased contrast. In short, they’ll look incredible.

QD-OLED is NOT to be confused with QLED – which is also a quantum dots display, with the QD layer atop an LCD, not an OLED. QLEDs have been on the market for a few years, competing mainly with LG’s OLEDs.

But … a couple of the presentations I saw this week during Display Week, and some follow-up reading, suggests the real next big thing is another Quantum Dots-ish technology called QNED, which is also being driven by Samsung.

QNED is short for Quantum dot Nanorod LED. Without getting very nerdy, because I can’t, the tech is similar in that there is a quantum dots filter. The difference is with the light pixels and how they’re made.

These are micro, or in this case nano-sized, LEDs that are shaped like pointy rods (from what I saw). Unlike typical display assembly techniques – where robotics pick and place the LED chips on a board – QNED pixels are sprayed out by inkjet (no, really) and dispersed in a solution, and then they “self-assemble” and accurate align when the solution gets electrically charged.

That’s probably way more than you need to know, but if you want your kids to stop bugging you, maybe explain QNEDs and that will quickly clear the room.

The attraction of QNED displays is that they would provide all the visual performance seen in OLEDs and QD-OLEDs, but be brighter … and also not be OLED – which has burn-in (image retention) issues/risks.

QNED is also attractive because the assembly process and design of QNED deals with some of the issues microLED have around manufacturing time (placing millions of light chips) and yield (minimizing dead pixels).

Eric Virey, a market analyst who closely follows the LED display market, said in his DisplayWeek 2020 talk that Samsung was well beyond the proof of concept stage with QNED and promising, but also that it was “not yet ready for prime time.”

Virey expects it will be 2025 before QNED is truly on the market – which tends to mean it will start showing up as trade show prototypes within the next couple of years.

If you are a display nerd, and exponentially brighter than me, this Display Daily piece goes into the technical nitty-gritty of QNED.