SKC Kolon PI Set to Mass-Produce PI Varnish

Mar 13, 2018

SKC Kolon PI made a public announcement recently about its new facility investment. It announced that it will be investing $11.3 million (12 billion KRW) into constructing polyimide (PI) varnish production line for flexible displays, electric vehicles, and secondary batteries. It explained that it is planning to construct a production line that can produce 600 tons of PI varnish annually by end of September.
PI varnish is a material that is used in manufacturing of flexible OLED displays and it is a raw material for a substrate of a flexible OLED panel. Based on the manufacturing process of OLED panels, PI varnish that is in liquid form is coated on top of glass and it produces a PI substrate by hardening the glass with heat. TFT (Thin Film Transistor) and OLED element are placed on top of the PI substrate, and an OLED panel is then produced after detaching the glass from the substrate. OLED panel that is produced from such process is categorized as flexible display as substrate is thin and flexible. Some companies call it plastic OLED as PI, which is an engineering plastic, is used during the process.
Japanese businesses have practically been monopolizing PI varnish market. Although Samsung Display and LG Display are the two top OLED businesses in the world, they have been receiving their supplies of PI varnish only from Japanese businesses. Samsung Display and LG Display have been receiving them from Ube Kosan and Kaneka respectively. Samsung Display established a joint corporate (SU Materials) with Ube Kosan in 2011 to secure stable supplies of PI varnish.

Panoramic view of SKC Kolon PI’s plant in Gumi (Reference: SKC Kolon PI’s homepage) <Panoramic view of SKC Kolon PI’s plant in Gumi (Reference: SKC Kolon PI’s homepage)>

Fact that SKC Kolon PI finalized on mass-production of PI varnish signals that PI varnish can finally be localized and that there will be changes to PI varnish market that has been monopolized by Japanese businesses. Especially the fact that it finalized on mass-production indicates that it has customers for its PI varnish.
“We cannot disclose exact names of our customers.” said a representative for SKC Kolon PI. “We have both domestic and foreign businesses in mind.” However, it is likely that Samsung Display and others are its potential customers as Samsung Display and LG Display are the ones that are mass-producing OLEDs and as SKC Kolon PI has been working on research with South Korean businesses.
“Samsung and LG probably made monopolistic supply chains with Ube and Kaneka respectively due to maturity of OLED market and contracts.” said a representative for a PI industry. “However, it seems that display manufacturers also need new supplies due to increase in output of OLED panels. SKC Kolon PI has been developing PI varnish with Samsung Display.”
SKC Kolon PI is planning to produce and sell PI varnish on full-scale starting from the second half of this year after going through trial operations.
Staff Reporter Yun, Keonil | benyun@etnews.com

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