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Kopin and Micledi partner on AR microLED displays

11 Jan 2024

Combination of Micledi's microLEDs and Kopin's backplane designs suitable for mass production, say the two firms.

US-based display developer Kopin has become the latest company to collaborate with Belgian microLED startup Micledi Microdisplays - with the pair looking to target applications in high-specification augmented reality (AR) applications.

The hook-up will combine Micledi’s CMOS production flow with Kopin’s backplane control and driving capabilities, with the goal of creating full-color microLED displays for high-performance defense, enterprise, consumer, and medical systems.

Prior to collaborating with Kopin, Micledi had agreed development deals with a number of other firms, including AR headset maker Kura, the compound semiconductor foundry IQE, and the chip manufacturing giant GlobalFoundries.

Based in Leuven, Micledi was created as a spin-out from imec, the highly influential electronics research center, leveraging its integration expertise and 300 mm wafer diameter CMOS production line.

Immersive experiences
Commenting on the latest collaboration, Micledi CEO Sean Lord said: “We are pleased with Kopin’s adoption and co-development of our disruptive AR display technology in truly innovative system solutions.

“To enable optimum microdisplays for AR, we believe Micledi has developed the world’s first solution for microLED manufacturing in a 300 mm CMOS line, which allows integrating both controller ASIC and emitter module on a 300 mm wafer in a highly efficient, high-volume, and low-cost manufacturing flow.

“Unique solutions can be tailored to the particular requirements of each end-use system, making Micledi’s microLEDs, manufactured in collaboration with Kopin’s backplane and system integration skills, applicable to a variety of specialized AR microdisplay systems.”

Bill Maffucci, Kopin’s senior VP for business development and strategy, added: “The demand for AR solutions, particularly for defense programs, has never been higher as users desire more immersive and information-rich experiences.

“Micledi’s microLED technology, combined with Kopin’s advanced backplane design capabilities, aims to create microLED displays that address the demanding needs of emerging applications without the deficiencies of current technologies.”

GaN for blue, green, and red
According to analysts at the France-based consultancy Yole Intelligence, although the cost of making microLEDs means they are yet to make any major commercial inroads in traditional display applications, the story could be very different for AR.

Yole says that microLEDs represent the only display technology capable of delivering the right combination of cost, brightness, efficiency, and size for the still-emerging market.

Micledi, which is taking part in the forthcoming SPIE AR/VR/MR event in San Francisco, says that its technology combines light-emitting III-V materials with 3D integration suitable for large-scale CMOS production to provide a self-contained, compact monolithic AR display with high image quality and power efficiency.

The company has previously demonstrated separate green, red, and blue microLED arrays - including 630 nm red emission with gallium nitride (GaN), the semiconductor material typically associated with blue light emission.

CEO Lord has said previously that GaN is only one option being considered for red emitters - with more conventional AlInGaP material, quantum dots, and other techniques offering alternative solutions.

Ahead of this week’s giant Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Micledi’s CTO Soeren Steudel stated that the firm was focused on responding to the challenges presented by all four performance objectives - with low-cost, high-volume production.

“At CES, we will highlight microLEDs with excellent color performance across the full range of drive currents for many different types of AR glasses [applications] in blue, green, and red,” Steudel said.

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