Samsung Display, the world's biggest OLED display panel maker, has agreed to acquire the US-based OLED microdisplay maker eMagin. The acquisition has been on the cards for a few months now, as there were multiple reports that Samsung was interested in eMagin's technology that can be used in AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) devices.
The acquisition could complete in the second half of 2023, according to eMagin's press release.
Samsung Display acquires eMagin for $218 million for OLED microdisplay technology for AR/VR headsets
To acquire eMagin, Samsung Display is spending $218 million in cash, reportedly 10% higher than the company's stock price on May 16, 2023. This acquisition is important for Samsung Display as it wants to expand its OLED microdisplay manufacturing as more AR/VR devices are about to hit the market. While Samsung Display is already making its first-generation OLED microdisplay, it uses color filters, while eMagin's products use direct emission technology. This technology is reportedly better and could be used in Samsung Display's second-generation products.
OLED microdisplays are extremely small display panels (around an inch or smaller in size) with extremely high resolution. For example, while smartphone and smartwatch OLED screens have pixel densities in the range of 300-500ppi, OLED microdisplays have a pixel density of over 2,600 ppi. eMagin's OLED microdisplay is exceptionally bright, too, at 15,000 nits. The company plans to bring full-color OLED microdisplays with over 28,000 nits of brightness later this year.
eMagin reportedly worked with several high-profile companies interested in the AR/VR space, including Apple, Facebook (Meta), Samsung, and Valve. Although eMagin's main business interest was in the defense sector, it remains to be seen how this acquisition affects the company's engagements with the US military. The consumer AR/VR space is much more valuable for the company, especially since Apple is entering the space later this year.
Apple is currently working with Sony's 4K OLED screen, but since eMagin has created some world records in brightness, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to think that Apple could use eMagin's displays in its future AR/VR headsets.
Andrew G. Sculley, eMagin’s CEO, said, “This agreement is a validation of our technical achievements to date including our proprietary direct patterning (dPd) technology, provides a significant premium for our shareholders, and represents a win for our customers and employees. By teaming with Samsung Display, we will be able to achieve the full potential of our next-generation microdisplay technology with a partner that can provide the resources and expertise we will need to scale production. Moreover, our customers will benefit from resulting improvement to our production capabilities in terms of yield, efficiency, and quality control.“