Apple has requested a sample of fine metal mask (FMM) for application in virtual reality (VR) to APS Holdings, TheElec has learned.
Cupertino has requested a sample of the South Korean company’s laser patterning FMM. Apple requested a resolution of 3000ppi (pixels per inch).
The iPhone maker wanted the FMM to meet the specification, irrelevant of their current productivity.
Apple will likely test the FMM sample to see if it can be applied to production, then form a more concrete plant for the VR device’s development.
FMM is used to deposit the red, green and blue organic materials during the production of OLED panels.
FMM is used currently in the production of smartphone OLED panels that are made out of Gen 6 (1500x1850) substrates.
The holes in the FMM that the organic materials go through are made using wet etching. This method can offer up to 600ppi with the current level of technology.
Apple likely wanted a laser patterning FMM as laser drilling for the holes will make 3000ppi more achievable.
APS Holdings has been developing laser patterning FMM for application in MicroOLED panels.
MicroOLED panels uses a silicon substrate instead of glass like conventional OLED panels.
This allows it to offer more precise and higher resolution.
Pixel sizes in OLED panels used in smartphones and TVs range from 40 micrometers to 300 micrometers. Those in MicroOLED panel range from 4 micrometers to 20 micrometers. MicroOLED also has microseconds response time and is a likely candidate to be used for VR and augmented reality (AR) applications.
In May, APS Holdings was chosen by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy to develop a MicroOLED display technology for high luminance and high resolution AR application. The national project’s aim is to develop a AR glass with 4000ppi resolution by 2024.
If Apple’s same test of its FMM goes well, APS Holdings will likely be able to expand its laser patterning FMM business.
However, it will still need to secure productivity in the production of the FMMs.
Existing AR and VR devices use white OLED panels with color filters atop a silicon substrate.
The color filter limits how high the brightness can be.
APS Holdings has previously claimed that RGB OLED is the way to go as it doesn’t need color filters. Their application has been limited due to the difficulty in producing FMM that can achieve the high resolution.
The South Korean company is also involved in a national project to develop FMM for Gen 6 OLED panels.
It is aiming to develop a FMM for half Gen 6 substrate with 600ppi resolution. It is also developing a way to use invar to manufacture FMM.
Currently, the production and supply of Gen 6 FMM is dominated by Japan’s Dai Nippon Printing. The firm uses a wet etching method for their production and supplies the FMM to Samsung Display and LG Display.