Sony and Panasonic join forces to manufacture OLED TVs

26 Jun 2012

The Sony XEL-1, the world's first OLED television, (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Sony and Panasonic, two rival TV manufacturers, have announced they will work together in manufacturing OLED television sets, forming a tough alliance for competitors Samsung and LG to beat.

Organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, are solid-state devices composed of thin films of organic molecules that create light when electricity is applied. Seen by many as a step beyond liquid crystal displays (LCDs) or conventional light-emitting diodes (LEDs), the manufacturing process of OLEDs poses many advantages, such as the possibility for roll-up displays, wider viewing angles, improved brightness, greater power efficiency, faster response time and lower manufacturing costs.

Currently, however, the manufacturing process is extremely expensive and time-consuming. Though OLED displays have been used on many smartphones and digital media players – and even some watches – OLED televisions remain well out of the reach of the average consumer.

The race to make affordable OLED TVs

The 3mm-thin 11-inch Sony XEL-1, released in 2008, was the world’s first OLED television, and its retail price was US$2,499.99. Today, Sony continues to manufacture OLED screens for high-end customers that cost up to US$26,000.

The partnership between the Japanese manufacturers could see televisions with OLED displays become commercially available in the not-so-distant future, and the race is on between Sony and Panasonic, Samsung, and LG to see who will reach the consumer market first.

Reuters reports that Panasonic will invest about 30bn yen in its Himeji plant for a test production line of OLED panels and, together, Sony and Panasonic plan to develop the technology and establish mass production by 2013.

Both Samsung and LG have already demonstrated 55-inch OLED TV prototypes, but these sets are expected to have a price tag of up to US$10,000 when they go on sale later this year.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.