Apple Has a ‘Secret’: Is MicroLED Technology the Next Big Thing?

Apple, in a move that isn’t particularly shocking after its acquisition of LuxVue in 2014, is reportedly working on MicroLED technology in a small “secret” California manufacturing facility in Santa Clara. The secrecy surrounding these production efforts suggests Apple executives are working to move to in-house screen production, a move that has the potential to disrupt Apple’s supply chain. The news has understandably caused waves among those across the technology industry, and a mainstream manufacturing impact is still possible in the distant future.

What is MicroLED technology?

Today, many screens for smartwatches and smartphones use OLED display technology. These displays present massive improvements over LCD technology. Unlike LCD, OLED displays do not have to be backlit. Similar to OLED, MicroLED technology works with each pixel providing its own illumination.

The benefits of MicroLED displays over OLED displays primarily lie in their efficiency. MicroLED displays can be much brighter without sacrificing battery power. In addition, they offer improved visibility at a wider variety of angles. Still, MicroLED technology is not particularly new to the scene and Apple is not alone in using it. Most notably, Samsung is on the cutting edge of consumer-ready MicroLED technology, having used it to create its new 146-inch modular TV dubbed “The Wall.”

However, creating MicroLED displays is very time-consuming. Each pixel is only the width of a hair and each needs to be carefully placed for the technology to work. Some engineering efforts are relying on robotics for this precision-oriented work, but MicroLED is still too costly for mass production.

Apple’s investment and manufacturing impact

In fact, the Santa Clara facility is not big enough for manufacturing on a large scale. Therefore, Apple executives don’t seem to be on the verge of making an immediate switch to MicroLED displays.

This effort more likely points to Apple execs’ desire to stay ahead of the curve in manufacturing display technology and to protect their proprietary information for future design efforts. In fact, Apple has previously shown a desire to bring outsourced production aspects in-house. According to the Tech Times article, Imagination Technologies Group used to provide GPUs to Apple until the latter brought that process in-house. Imagination execs ended up selling their company to Canyon Bridge in the aftermath.

This made one thing clear: When a major industry player like Apple changes up production processes, it can have ripple effects across a range of companies. Apple has the influential weight to be a game changer, and executives’ interest and investment in a particular technology can take it from the fringe to the mainstream practically overnight. Therefore, this news could spark an increase in competitors’ attempts to manufacture MicroLED technology, but it will likely be a difficult endeavor.

As new technologies enter the manufacturing world and send ripples of innovation and disruption throughout the industry, you can depend on the professionals at Global Electronic Services. Contact us for all your industrial electronic, servo motor, AC and DC motor, hydraulic, and pneumatic needs — and don’t forget to like and follow us on Facebook!
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