Merck investing in new Taiwan research center

DISPLAY::The liquid crystal supplier hopes the center could help local companies develop and lay out their technology roadmaps for the next three to five years

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Nov 16, 2012 - Page 13

Merck Display Technologies Inc, the world’s top liquid crystal supplier, yesterday said it would invest hundreds of millions of New Taiwan dollars to build a new research center in Taiwan and assist local clients in developing new technologies for high-resolution organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays, 3D displays and flexible displays.

Merck’s announcement came against a backdrop of weak LCD demand as the US and the EU’s fragile economies put a pall on consumer spending.

“We can only make a general assessment [about the industry’s prospects], but we think consumer demand overall is stable. We are not concerned, but there are areas in the world — Europe and to some extent, North America — where the economic cloud may impact consumer demand next year,” Bernd Reckman, general partner and member of Merck’s executive board, told reporters in Taipei.

However, emerging markets such as China remain a dynamic region, where demand is healthy, giving a solid basis for the industry’ future development, Reckman said.

The new research center is part of Merck’s new and larger research center built in Germany two years ago, where 200 to 300 engineers are stationed to develop new technologies for the display, LED lighting and solar photovoltaic industries, the company said.

“We will work closely with our local customers in developing new technologies [to assist them] on their technology roadmaps for the next three to five years,” Dick Hsieh (謝志宏), managing director and head of Merck’s liquid crystal business.

“As those technologies are young technologies, we have to check with our customers to see whether the technology interests them before deciding to increase investments. OLED technology is one of them,” he said.

Hsieh said Merck was focusing on developing technology for the manufacture of large OLED displays, with the firm working with Japan’s Epson to optimize the use of raw materials. The companies have found that the application of inkjet printing technology has helped boost raw materials optimization from less than 5 percent to 90 percent.

Merck thinks this technology could be the solution and help panel makers achieve a breakthrough in boosting yields and ramping up production of OLED TV panels, Hsieh said.

NPD DisplaySearch forecast that OLED TV shipments would grow slowly to account for only about 3 percent of the world’s total flat-panel TVs in 2016 as LG Display and Samsung Electronics continue to work on improving production yields.

Merck expects the new research center in Taoyuan to be completed later this month and would begin serving local clients at the end of the first quarter next year at the earliest.

The company plans to hire 10 research engineers for the new center, bringing its total number of research engineers to 220.