Apple investing in chemical deposition gear suitable for iPhone OLED screen production

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
A report from the supply chain suggests that Apple is investing in equipment to assist in supplying OLED screens to the "iPhone 8" and beyond, but who will run the gear and for what purpose is not known.




According to reports collated by ET News, Apple has purchased chemical vapor deposition (CVD) machines from Sunic Systems in Korea. While the report claims that Apple is "eagerly developing" its own OLED technology and is purchasing that equipment for itself to accomplish that goal, that seems improbable as Apple has never built its own screens for any device it has ever made.

The dominant OLED manufacturing equipment supplier is Japan's Canon Tokki. Both Samsung and LG Display purchase hardware from the Japanese manufacturer.

Chemical vapor deposition exposes a substrate material to a volatile "precursor." The combination of the two materials causes a chemical reaction which creates the desired material.

OLED screen fabrication isn't the only use for CVD equipment. The gear with different materials can be used for creating integrated circuits and photovoltaic equipment. Additionally, other uses of the gear include deposition of nitrides on a metal for wear resistance, or water resistance.

CVD can also be used for minute structural parts not easily made by milling or casting. Other uses include optical fiber construction, and complex composite material fabrication at volume.

It takes some time for the production lines to develop OLED screens. If the report is accurate, and the machines are intended for OLED screen production, any output wouldn't be available in time for the fall launch of the "iPhone 8" and are likely intended for future production -- if they are going to be used for screens at all.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 8
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,979member
    Two stories, this one and Foxconn's decision to build a display production facility in Michigan.

    The third story needs to be "Are CVD machines capable of producing microLED's?".
    jony0anton zuykovSpamSandwich
  • Reply 2 of 8
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,967administrator
    tmay said:
    Two stories, this one and Foxconn's decision to build a display production facility in Michigan.

    The third story needs to be "Are CVD machines capable of producing microLED's?".
    Not as directly as they are for OLED, but they are involved in the production. The kicker is, though, why would Apple buy the equipment, and not the manufacturer itself?
  • Reply 3 of 8
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,146moderator
    tmay said:
    Two stories, this one and Foxconn's decision to build a display production facility in Michigan.

    The third story needs to be "Are CVD machines capable of producing microLED's?".
    Not as directly as they are for OLED, but they are involved in the production. The kicker is, though, why would Apple buy the equipment, and not the manufacturer itself?
    Apple buys IP, not manufacturers.  That would be my guess as to why Apple would go this route, as they long have done. 
    tmay
  • Reply 4 of 8
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,967administrator
    tmay said:
    Two stories, this one and Foxconn's decision to build a display production facility in Michigan.

    The third story needs to be "Are CVD machines capable of producing microLED's?".
    Not as directly as they are for OLED, but they are involved in the production. The kicker is, though, why would Apple buy the equipment, and not the manufacturer itself?
    Apple buys IP, not manufacturers.  That would be my guess as to why Apple would go this route, as they long have done. 
    I should be more clear. Why did Apple buy the equipment? That's the manufacturer's responsibility.
    radarthekat
  • Reply 5 of 8
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,148member
    tmay said:
    Two stories, this one and Foxconn's decision to build a display production facility in Michigan.

    The third story needs to be "Are CVD machines capable of producing microLED's?".
    Not as directly as they are for OLED, but they are involved in the production. The kicker is, though, why would Apple buy the equipment, and not the manufacturer itself?
    Apple buys IP, not manufacturers.  That would be my guess as to why Apple would go this route, as they long have done. 
    I should be more clear. Why did Apple buy the equipment? That's the manufacturer's responsibility.
    If Apple (or their Cash Horde) are going to underwrite propuction with a start up loan then why not buy the equipement themselves and the manufactures pay them back with product?
    Saves adding the start up cost with the manufactures taking out a 3rd party loan. Which only add to the total cost. I assume it's more tax effective to move equipment over borders instead of cash which Apple might already have enough of in local currency.  
  • Reply 6 of 8
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,146moderator
    tmay said:
    Two stories, this one and Foxconn's decision to build a display production facility in Michigan.

    The third story needs to be "Are CVD machines capable of producing microLED's?".
    Not as directly as they are for OLED, but they are involved in the production. The kicker is, though, why would Apple buy the equipment, and not the manufacturer itself?
    Apple buys IP, not manufacturers.  That would be my guess as to why Apple would go this route, as they long have done. 
    I should be more clear. Why did Apple buy the equipment? That's the manufacturer's responsibility.
    I recall the $250,000 laser systems Apple purchased for use in punching 27 microscopic holes in each MacBook Air display bezel, so that where the camera ON indicator light resided would look to the naked eye like solid aluminum, but would light up when the LED behind those holes was powered.  Apple had long stopped owning Mac manufacturing plants at that time, so those lasers were placed with their manufacturing partner, who would otherwise not have had any uses for them.  One of many examples, I expect, of Apple owning some piece of manufacturing equipment that's co-located with a manufacturing partner.  
    edited July 2017 tmay
  • Reply 7 of 8
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,521member
    tmay said:
    Two stories, this one and Foxconn's decision to build a display production facility in Michigan.

    The third story needs to be "Are CVD machines capable of producing microLED's?".
    Not as directly as they are for OLED, but they are involved in the production. The kicker is, though, why would Apple buy the equipment, and not the manufacturer itself?
    Apple buys IP, not manufacturers.  That would be my guess as to why Apple would go this route, as they long have done. 
    I should be more clear. Why did Apple buy the equipment? That's the manufacturer's responsibility.
    I recall the $250,000 laser systems Apple purchased for use in punching 27 microscopic holes in each MacBook Air display bezel, so that where the camera ON indicator light resided would look to the naked eye like solid aluminum, but would light up when the LED behind those holes was powered.  Apple had long stopped owning Mac manufacturing plants at that time, so those lasers were placed with their manufacturing partner, who would otherwise not have had any uses for them.  One of many examples, I expect, of Apple owning some piece of manufacturing equipment that's co-located with a manufacturing partner.  
    Just to complicate things a bit here, DigiTimes is spinning this as Apple trying to help out a Korean evaporative equipment supplier in order to break Canon's monopoly over the same kind of evaporative manufacturing equipment — whose main customers are LG and Samsung — by setting up a trial production fab in Taiwan.  

    In other words, it looks like Apple is going into the manufacturing business in order to open up the OLED field in Taiwan, thus competing with the established manufacturers in Korea and China.

    http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20170724VL203.html?mod=2
  • Reply 8 of 8
    pk22901pk22901 Posts: 139member
    "I assume it's more tax effective to move equipment over borders instead of cash which Apple might already have enough of in local currency." That's a neat thought. If Apple buys $2B of equipment to fill a US factory, there will be no tax on it. Converting current 35% tax to zero tax is a nice trick. Maybe Apple will do this with serious money (over $20B) some day.
    edited July 2017
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