Jong-Jan (JJ) Lee, President and CEO
Much like this adage says, the display technology landscape has something big on the horizon with the potential to redefine its future —MicroLED. Designed by combining the best features of two existing technologies, it brings something new and huge to the table. This self-emissive technology promises better contrast and efficiency compared with conventional LCDs. Not just that, by using millions of individually addressable inorganic GaN LEDs, MicroLED outpaces OLED in picture quality, brightness, and risk of burn-in, making it uniquely suited to large spaces. But, despite these remarkable advantages, what prevents mass adoption is cost.
With current mass-transfer technology that collects LEDs and positions them on display, assembling an array of 99 million MicroLEDs needed for an 8k display is no easy task. Complicated assembly operations and the small size of devices make the process slow and inefficient, consequently increasing the price of MicroLED displays. Additionally, precise placement requirements of mass transfer equipment limit its scope to relatively small-size glass, which requires an additional step to tile together many small pieces of glass to make large-size displays. This is precisely where eLux makes a world of difference with its proprietary fluidic assembly technology.
The Washington-based company has developed a unique massively parallel assembly technology that reduces manufacturing time and cost of large-area emissive displays. “The development of our technology is an outgrowth of the work we began at Sharp Laboratories in 2014,” says Jong- Jan (JJ) Lee, the President and CEO of eLux. “Founded in 2016 as a spin-out from Sharp Laboratories, our objective is to develop MicroLED technology-based direct emission displays that suit large format video wall and television applications.” The company has an extensive and growing patent portfolio covering all aspects of fluidic assembly technology with 56 issued U.S. patents, 32 foreign patents, and 25 pending applications.
Founded in 2016 as a spin-out from Sharp Laboratories, our objective is to develop MicroLED technology-based direct emission displays that suit large format video wall and television applications
By leveraging the extensive experience of Lee and CTO Paul Schuele, eLux has now evolved into a prominent player in the low-cost assembly of MicroLEDs using fluidic assembly. Today, the company specializes in offering IP licensing, technology transfer of fluidic assembly, and assembly of MicroLED display prototypes. It leverages proprietary techniques to produce a MicroLED suspension that is then applied to a display glass with trap sites to capture an LED for each sub-pixel. The MicroLED suspension is then dispersed across the glass using low-cost equipment to assemble MicroLEDs in each pixel. Once the assembly is completed, the excess MicroLEDs are swept off the display glass for recycling. This way, the company eliminates the need for precision requirements and makes the assembly process simple and cost-effective.
“Today, we can assemble 5 million MicroLEDs per hour with a yield of 99.99 percent while our assembly speed can be increased by scaling up the substrate size. We also have a fully automated cassette-cassette fluidic assembly tool for 15-inch substrates and are currently developing the BKM to make displays in batches of 10,” says Lee.
What makes eLux unique is the collaborative approach that it adopts in developing direct emission displays. The company partners with leading MicroLED suppliers and manufacturers of display backplanes, including a large display company in Taiwan and brings together well-established display and LED technologies from the lighting industry to optimize prototype fabrication. “We pride ourselves on being the first and only company to develop a massively parallel assembly technology, which is well protected by IP and years of experimental know-how,” says Lee. Unlike conventional mass-transfer technology that preserves MicroLED positions from LED wafer to display, eLux’s fluidic self-align assembly harvests know-good-MicroLED and randomizes them prior to assembly. This not only eliminates ‘mura’ problems but also provides an opportunity to fabricate defect-free displays without a repair process.
With such a powerful value proposition, eLux partnered with a display collaborator in Taiwan to assemble several display modules in a few days to make a tiled display demo for a trade show, Touch Taiwan. The speed and simplicity of fluidic assembly allow the company to be responsive to customer requests. Moving ahead, the development labs at eLux are tirelessly working to mitigate the challenges of scale up from R&D level development to prototype fabrication, making more displays to optimize the processes for product manufacturing. To do this, it offers IP licensing and technology transfer opportunities to companies that are likely to enter the MicroLED display market. “With innovation embedded in our corporate DNA, we’re always on a drive to embrace new things and stay ahead of the curve. Now, we are moving aggressively to develop Gen 3.5 or Gen 6 tools,” concludes Lee.