APS Holdings and Philoptics are expected to compete fiercely to stay on a key government-backed fine metal mask (FMM) project.
The project run by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, is done to develop FMM sticks that will be applied to future generation OLED production. FMM is used to deposit OLED devices on the substrate.
APS and Philpotics are all part of the project but the Ministry is conducting the project as a survival game where companies with low scores will be dropped out within a year, according to the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology (KEIT), a subsidiary agency under the ministry that oversees technology evaluation, on Wednesday.
It is rare for a government project to be done in this way as a competition.
An official at KEIT said this was done as there was multiple ways to manufacturer FMM and the Ministry wanted to vet as many methods as possible.
Four companies has been chosen for the project so far: APS Holdings, Philoptics, Poongwon Precision and Olum Material. APS and Philpotics use the non-etching method for their FMM production while Poongwon and Olum uses the etching method.
The ministry is expected to keep two companies in the project, one that uses the non-etching method and another for the etching method. The two winners will part in the project that will last until 2023.
LASER V ELECTRO FORMING
APS uses laser patterning while Philoptics use electro forming plating for their non-etching processes. Both companies are listed on KOSDAQ and their successes in the project will be key interest to investors. Poong won and Olum are not listed on the bourse.
Its electro forming plating method will make FMM sticks thinner and is more suitable for high resolution patterns compared to etching methods, a Philoptics spokesperson said. The company also considered laser patterning but it had lower productivity compared to electro forming, it said.
Philoptics has also formed a consortium with partners in FMM production, sealing, welding and deposition for the project, the company added. It also overcame the thermal expansion problem, it said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for APS Holdings said its laser patterning method had less limitations in materials and doesn’t need a photo mask. On the method’s lower productivity, the company said it was improving related equipment, while adding that non-etching method was more advantageous in securing yield rate in production and increasing OLED panel’s life span.
Olum Material has previously attempted non-etching electro forming method as well.
The world wide FMM market is dominated by Japanese firm Dai Nippon Printing (DNP). Invar used in FMM production is dominated by Hitachi Metal.
DNP uses the etching method: rolling, photo, cutting and welding processes are done step by step to make the FMM sticks.