Display makers increase IGZO capacity as Apple ponders next-gen panels for 'iPad Pro' - report

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Apple is likely to choose IGZO-based display panels for its so-called 12.9-inch 'iPad Pro,' a Monday report from South Korea suggests, prompting Korean manufacturers Samsung and LG Display to make investments designed to increase their production capacity in a bid to win Apple's business.

The iPad Air is currently Apple's largest tablet, with a 9.7-inch display.

LG Display has reportedly begun tooling for an 8th-generation IGZO plant in Paju, Gyeonggi province, according to ETNews. That facility would produce up to 21,000 2,200-millimeter-by-2,500-millimeter glass-backed IGZO sheets each month.

Such an expansion would increase LG Display's total IGZO capacity from 9,000 sheets to 30,000 sheets each month. Critically, that expansion might not be complete until mid-2016, while Apple is expected to launch its jumbo iPad later this year.

"Investment to produce 30,000 sheets next year's second quarter have started," a "well-informed LG Display related official" told the publication. "Apple is creating iPads with 12.9 inch display, which shows they are increasing the panel size. And because so, we are planning in expanding production rate as well."

Samsung is said to be in the midst of a similar expansion, with the eventual goal of producing 60,000 1,100-millimeter-by-1,300-millimeter sheets per month on its 5th-generation process by the end of 2015.

Apple is believed to favor a three-headed supply chain for IGZO panels, with LG Display, Samsung, and Japan's Sharp reportedly lined up.

Apple's move to IGZO displays has been rumored for years, and while it is an excellent technical solution, the company has recently placed massive bets on competing LTPS technology, which is used in the current-generation iPhones and iPads. Japan Display's new $1.4 billion LTPS plant will be largely financed by an Apple prepayment — which will secure exclusive access to the factory's output — and the company is thought to have cut a similar deal for the LTPS retrofit of Sharp's Kameyama No. 1 facility.