Controversy over "Ultra-thin Flexible Cover Glass" for Folding Screen Mobile Phones

Views:114 Writer:admin Date:2021-09-11

  Original title: Folding screen mobile phone staged a "cover" battle

  As a key material for folding screen mobile phones, the flexible cover market is undergoing a battle between UTG (ultra-thin flexible cover glass) and CPI (transparent polyimide).

Controversy over

  According to DSCC forecasts, UTG, which currently has a penetration rate of less than 10%, is expected to become the mainstream in the next three years. Although the final winner is still inconclusive, with the maturity of the technology and the push of terminal brands, the penetration rate of UTG is continuing to increase, and the scale of competition has gradually shifted from CPI to UTG.

  UTG penetration rate continues to increase

  Since the beginning of this year, brands such as Xiaomi and Samsung have successively released new folding screen mobile phones, and manufacturers such as OPPO and vivo will also join the folding screen mobile phone camp in the future. DSCC predicts that the shipment of folding screen smartphones is expected to reach 5.6 million units in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 143%. In terms of output, the year-on-year growth rate of folding screen mobile phones is expected to reach 187%. It is estimated that by 2025, shipments of folding screen mobile phones are expected to exceed 56 million units.

  One of the technical difficulties of folding screen mobile phones is the flexibility of the cover. Previously, the folding screen mobile phones released on the market were all transparent polyimide when the cover material was selected. Today, with the maturity of the process and industrial chain, ultra-thin flexible cover glass has become an important new direction in the industry, and will be mass-produced and used on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip in 2020. Chinese mobile phone brands also plan to launch folding screen mobile phones using UTG.

  It is reported that starting from the second half of the year, Chinese brand Xiaomi plans to use UTG for the first time in Mi Mix Fold2. Vivo also plans to use UTG covers in folding phones with 8-inch internal screens and 6.5-inch external screens launched in the fourth quarter. Honor, which is independent from Huawei, also plans to launch Magic Fold, a folding screen mobile phone using UTG. OPPO plans to launch a folding screen mobile phone using UTG next year.

  The industry believes that as more and more terminal brands choose UTG cover materials, the market for CPI as a competitive material may be further reduced.

  Geng Yi, director of the Optoelectronics Research Office of CCID Think Tank Institute of Integrated Circuits, analyzed that from a performance point of view, CPI has advantages in durability and folding performance, while UTG made of glass is superior in transparency and hardness. At present, it is still uncertain who will be the winner in the end, but with the gradual maturity of UTG technology and the increase in production capacity, as well as the promotion of terminal brands such as Samsung, the scale of competition has gradually tilted towards UTG.

  According to DSCC data, the penetration rate of folding screen mobile phones equipped with UTG covers is still less than 10%, but between 2022-2025, UTG is expected to become the mainstream, and the penetration rate will stabilize at around 70%. If the cost of UTG drops significantly, the penetration rate of UTG will continue to increase.

  SCHOTT and Corning compete for hegemony

  The UTG industry chain is mainly divided into two links: manufacturing and thinning of UTG glass materials. Representative companies in the glass manufacturing link include Schott of Germany, Corning of the United States, and Asahi Glass of Japan. Lai, domestic companies Changxin Technology, Trisun Technology, etc., downstream customers are mainly display module companies, such as Samsung, BOE, etc.

  It is reported that the original UTG original film supplier was mainly SCHOTT. Samsung Display exclusively purchased UTG mother glass from SCHOTT, and then thinned and strengthened the glass through DowooInsys. Both SCHOTT and Dowooinsys signed a technical cooperation agreement with Samsung Display. UTG is supplied to Samsung Electronics by Samsung Display attached to the folding panel. For the first time, Samsung Electronics adopted UTG instead of CPI as mobile phone cover on the Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy Z Flod2.

  With the increasing application of UTG in folding screen mobile phones, in order to improve the stability of the supply chain, but also to reduce costs, Samsung Electronics decided to build its own UTG supply chain. As a result, Samsung Electronics began to jointly develop UTG with Corning. At present, Corning has become the second UTG supplier of Samsung Electronics' folding screen mobile phones.

  It is understood that Corning's UTG glass cover has a thickness of 50μm, which is still far behind Schott's 30μm. According to industry analysts, in order to use Corning UTG in Samsung's foldable mobile phone, it also needs to go through thinning etching and surface strengthening treatment, which will inevitably incur additional costs. Therefore, SCHOTT still has a supply advantage in the short term.

  In Samsung's new foldable mobile phone recently released-Galaxy Z Fold3, most of the cover glass is still supplied by SCHOTT, but the addition of Corning has broken SCHOTT's dominance.

  Industry insiders believe that the continuous expansion of the UTG supply chain is expected to drive down the price of folding screen mobile phones.

  Domestic companies lack high-end capabilities

  At present, domestic companies that have achieved mass production capacity of UTG original films are rare, and deep processing companies still need to purchase foreign original films, with limited supply and high costs. In addition, UTG's deep processing production line has a relatively large investment. Taking Trisun Technology as an example, the UTG Phase II project has an investment of more than 1 billion yuan and a construction period of 20 months.

  Although my country currently has no mass-produced UTG manufacturers, a large number of cover plate processing plants are still actively developing thinner UTG, and some have entered the stage of small-batch production. In the industry chain, there are relatively many companies in my country with back-end thinning and deep processing capabilities, including Saide, Trisun Technology, Harmonicare Optics, Su Chuan Technology, and Changxin Technology.

  "In fact, the rise of UTG cover materials has not been long. From the perspective of the current industrial development, the layout of Chinese glass companies in the field of UTG cover materials is not significantly different from that of foreign companies, especially in the research and development of ultra-thin UTG products. , my country’s development process is at the same starting line as the international advanced office." Peng Shou, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said in an interview with a reporter from China Electronics News. Corning and Asahi Glass have trial-produced UTG samples below 100μm, and China National Building Materials Bengbu Institute has also trial-produced 30-70μm UTG samples, which is not weaker than the international advanced level.

  Geng Yi believes that although the development layout of UTG in my country is not backward in some areas, the overall development level of high-end glass cover is still relatively weak.

  For domestic glass cover manufacturers, there is a lack of high-end products with high profits. In the field of low-end products, price competition is extremely fierce. In this regard, Geng Yi suggested that in addition to further increasing investment in technology research and development of new products, we should also focus on the combination of production, education and research, and continuously improve the company's innovation capabilities. At the same time, domestic enterprises should also face up to the gap with international enterprises, join forces that can be combined, give play to their own advantages, and jointly enlarge the market pie. (Reporter Gu Yue)

  Source: China Electronics News

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