Micro LED's 5 challenges in mass production: Q&A with VueReal CEO Reza Chaji

Siu Han, Taipei; Judy Lin, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: VueReal

Apple Inc.'s recent decision to give up a Micro LED smartphone collaboration with ams OSRAM forced the latter to sell its new factory in Malaysia to deal with the strategic change. Reza Chaji, CEO of VueReal, a Micro LED startup company based in Ontario, Canada, gave his insight on the challenges of the Micro LED industry during an exclusive interview with DIGITIMES.

Chaji believes the slow progress of Apple's Micro-LED project is reflecting a tech migration efficiency bottleneck. Micro LED has to overcome 5 challenges to enter the consumer market by lowering costs, and such efforts have to be delivered in two aspects, according to Chaji.

The following are the excerpts from the interview:

Q: What's your take on the late progress of Apple Watch's adoption of Micro LED?

The sluggish progress in MicroLED adoption for consumer markets underscores a widespread challenge encountered by numerous companies in upscaling MicroLED display technology. The efficient transfer of MicroLEDs from wafer to backplane has proven to be a significant obstacle within the industry. Traditional methods like laser and pick-and-place are proving inefficient and unscalable, raising sustainability concerns.

The industry needs a scalable, eco-friendly solution that tackles yield, throughput, performance, and cost concerns. This isn't solely about advancing MicroLED displays; it's about propelling the entire micro semi device applications landscape.

VueReal's MicroSolid Printing™ platform uniquely confronts the transfer challenge, enabling the scalable production of MicroLED displays. Leveraging a patented eco-friendly micro-pixel manufacturing process, VueReal's breakthrough technology facilitates the seamless transfer and production of MicroLEDs, extending its application beyond displays to encompass MicroSensors, MicroChiplets, and MicroSolar devices.

We firmly believe in the significant potential of MicroLED, positioning it as the next OLED within the expansive $180 billion display market. VueReal's innovative approach, overcoming challenges inherent in other transfer solutions, establishes it as a pivotal player in bringing mass production of MicroLED displays to fruition.

With MicroLED displays for automotive and consumer electronics companies already in production at its Canadian facility, VueReal is poised to revolutionize visual experiences in automotive, wearables, smartphones, AR/VR, and lighting. This places VueReal in a strategic position to drive the MicroLED display market to a projected $30 billion by 2029.

Q: What are the technical problems that Micro LED faces during the mass production stage?

There are 5 key tech migration challenges as Micro LED enters mass production stage:

The first is cost: a major obstacle for Micro LED displays. Therefore, effective migration solutions must be seamlessly integrated with existing production tools and processes to minimize capital expenditures and further advance Micro LED and micro semiconductor development.

Second is yield: Using traditional mass transfer solutions, the success rate of final transfer to display applications remains a challenge. Next-generation solutions must be able to quickly transfer millions of micro-pixel devices with high yield and zero defects.

Third is throughput: High-quality micro LED and micro semiconductor solutions require high efficiency, accuracy, and reliable performance for the seamless transfer of millions of micro LED wafers.

Fourth is performance: Achieving high uniformity from non-uniform wafers is a serious challenge for scaling Micro LED displays and micro semiconductor production. The ideal migration solution should utilize a large portion of the wafer area to produce useful displays.

Finally, wafer utilization efficiency: Traditional solutions struggle with sub-optimal wafer utilization efficiency, typically under 50%. Next-gen transfer solutions should achieve over 80% utilization, making the majority of wafer areas useful in the production process.

Addressing these challenges is crucial for successful and efficient mass adoption of Micro LED technology. Innovative solutions must provide cost-effectiveness, high yield, efficient throughput, and superior performance to unlock the full potential of this groundbreaking technology.

Q: How can Micro LEDs reduce costs to reach the consumer market?

MicroLED can be cost competitive in two ways: by reducing the integration complexity of final products and offering more functionality in a similar platform. Eventually, with the VueReal approach, the high volume production of MicroLED and cartridges will significantly reduce material costs. Furthermore, MicroLED can benefit from lower CapEX and OpEX, leading to lower device costs.

Q: As mentioned before, could you please explain the broader impact of these advancements on the semiconductor industry and potential collaborations to expedite the development of micro- and nano-technology platforms?

The VueReal MicroSolid Printing is a new platform for the scalable integration of different micro semi-devices into surfaces. This platform can be adopted for high volume or customized production of different hardware applications. By offering cartridges with different micro semi-devices (e.g., sensors, LEDs, AI, etc.) our partners and developers will develop new product categories that are not imaginable today. Eventually, this platform will do for hardware development what the smartphone did for software and applications.

Q: Can you share the latest progress on the MicroSolid Printing platform? What kind of customers will adopt mass production and when?

VueReal has been focused on automotive applications in the past couple of years, offering different products with customized features such as high transparency, super-high brightness for lighting, and high resolution. The experience has positioned VueReal to address consumer markets and we are currently working with many different companies in this sector.

This announcement reflects some of our most recent developments:

We are working with several top auto OEMS, display fabs, and hardware companies to design, develop, and manufacture MicroLED displays. We are targeting the auto, wearables, smartphone, and AR/VR markets. While our goal is to achieve production scale for smartphone applications, we believe that automotive and wearables will be commercialized first, within the next couple of years. VueReal is also developing unique solutions for AR and VR, which will enable fast adoption of MicroLEDs in those markets.

VueReal's approach incorporates the principles of software development into hardware, empowering customers to cost-effectively manufacture innovative next-gen display and sensor products anywhere in the world. The benefits of our platform over other solutions (e.g., laser and pick and place) are clear. For instance, MicroSolid Printing's advantages over other solutions include the following:

Exceptional visual quality, energy efficiency, tunable transparency (80% to zero), and versatile applications; high yield (99.999%); 2-5 times higher throughput; reduction of wafers by up to 10 times, lowering toolset requirements; wafer uniformity, enabling the use of all wafers with 80% wafer utilization compared to under 50% for other solutions, etc.

The sustainability advantages of MicroSolid Printing include the following:

A 30% reduction in environmental impact/clean energy; uses fewer wafers for the same number of displays, leading to further water, power, and materials savings.

Ongoing development for the backplane, further saving power consumption, and seamless integration of high-efficient Micro Semi devices into displays and surfaces for energy recycling and harvesting are also our efforts for sustainability.

VueReal's turnkey MicroSolid Printing™ platform seamlessly integrates with existing fabrication, display tools, and processes, offering customers a cost-effective transition to microLED with minimal capital expenditure.