Who would win the transparent conductive film market?
This year is a significant year for the touch panel market as adoption of non-ITO films made of silver nanowire, copper mesh, silver mesh, silver halide, and silver nano particle has been examined and implemented in full scale. So far, touch panels were mostly employed for applications with relatively small screens, such as smartphone, tablet PC, notebook PC, ATM, and car navigation system. But recently, touch user interface (UI) began to be applied to devices with larger screens, such as all-in-one (AIO) PC, electronic board, and large notebook PC. As the screen gets bigger, data needs to be processed rises, and as a result, the resistance of transparent electrode has become very important. Reflecting such trends, non-ITO film is forecast to make up 34 percent of the total transparent conductive film market in 2017.
For now, indium tin oxide (ITO) is the most commonly used material for transparent conductive film. When using ITO, glass-based ITO has resistance of about 50-60 ohm, while film-based ITO has about 100 ohm resistance given its mass productivity.
A touch panel up to the size of 20-30 inches can be realized by using ITO glass, which has lower resistance than ITO film. But it also has many weaknesses, such as less room to adjust weight, thickness, and designs. It is also fragile and less productive as it uses sheet unit process. Therefore, many attempts have been made to replace ITO glass. In particular, non-ITO films that can replace ITO films have already been applied to devices with large screens that ITO film, which has relatively higher resistance, cannot be used. (In fact, it will be more correct to see this as a market that substitutes the heavy, inconvenient ITO glass rather than the ITO film.) In addition, indium is a rare metal that is expensive and limited in supply, so this can be a move to replace the material.
At the same time, touch panel price is falling rapidly and expectation for optical properties is increasing. Touch panel makers are seeking to come up with ideas to have better specifications and lower production costs. In this context, many changes are being made in capacitive touch structure. Previously, GG (cover glass + ITO glass sensor) type, mostly used for the Apple products, or GFF (cover glass + two ITO film sensors) type accounted for most of the market. But now companies are using structures, which can improve production efficiency, lower production costs, have better optical properties, or realize lighter and thinner panels. In short, the representative structures, which can reduce the number of ITO sensor layers, trim processes while cutting costs and thickness, are GG >>> G1/G2, GFF >>> GF2, GF1, G1F, in-cell, and on-cell.
With these changes in the market, demand for ITO film, by area, is likely to gradually slow down due to a rise in demand for non-ITO films and changes in layer structures. Also, ITO film price is expected to fall rapidly as China and some other countries are investing heavily in ITO film production lines.
Displaybank’s new report analyzes and forecasts the overall transparent conductive film market, including ITO film and non-ITO film as well as today’s issues in the touch panel market. It also provides clues on how to deal with the changes in the market going forward.