TOKYO -- OLED lighting is on track to become a regular part of daily living in the near future, as many major manufacturers move to mass-produce the cutting-edge display panels.
The thin, flexible and lightweight panels emit an almost natural light and generate little heat. Thus, they can be embedded in furniture, mirrors, walls and other objects, enabling applications that have not been possible with older technology.
Konica Minolta will begin mass production of the lighting panels in Yamanashi Prefecture in the fall, setting up a 10 billion yen ($97.2 million) plant capable of making 1 million panels per month.
Since 2011, lighting-equipment maker Lumiotec, whose investors include Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, has been mass-producing the panels. But its monthly output of just 5,000 panels is is just a fraction of Konica Minolta's scale. Now, a full-blown competition among manufacturers is about to begin.
Konica Minolta says it will be the first in the world to mass-produce OLED panels using plastic substrates. It will tout the advantages of its products to lighting-equipment makers, urging them to develop new products for use in aircraft, automobiles and other areas. "We will cultivate new applications to make (OLED lighting) part of everyday lives," President Masatoshi Matsuzaki told a news conference Tuesday.
Pioneer and Mitsubishi Chemical will jointly mass-produce low-cost OLED panels that are 90% cheaper to make than before. They will produce the equivalent of 40,000 10-by-10cm panels a month starting in the latter half of fiscal 2014.
Philips Electronics Japan in February rolled out small OLED panels for sale to lighting makers, at about 20,000 yen apiece. Toshiba Lighting & Technology plans to begin taking orders in April for household OLED lighting systems, selling them for about 30,000 yen each.
The Japanese market for OLED lighting is expected to expand to over 100 billion yen in 2020, up from 1.1 billion yen in 2012, according to market research firm Fuji Keizai.