As a global pioneer in display technology, namely liquid crystals, Merck KGaA is confident of continuing to lead the markets despite an inevitable change of trends from LCD to organic light-emitting diodes, or OLED.
“Our role is to help our customers to become more cost-efficient in OLED production,” said Walter Galinat, president of Merck’s Performance Materials Division.
|Walter Galinat, president of Merck’s Performance Materials Division speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald on Thursday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
For Merck, which holds more than 3,000 patents for liquid crystals, a core technology that accounts for 95 percent of the global display market, moving onto OLED is not a problem since it’s already heavily invested in the technology.
Liquid crystals will also continue to be a central income source since, unlike the manufacturers who are stuck with actual displays and sets, Merck can simply apply the core technology to other surfaces and gadgets.
“Smart windows are one example of how we try to think outside of the usual applications,” said Galinat. The technology involves mixing liquid crystals with glass so that the window can control the shades depending on the amount of sunlight.
Merck is a family-owned business founded in Darmstadt, Germany.
It stands as the world’s oldest chemical and pharmaceutical company. Its main areas of expertise are liquid crystals and industrial pigments. This year, it added an “advanced technology unit” to focus on new engines of growth.
Galinat credited the founding family for the success Merck has enjoyed so far, as their time and finances have allowed the company to develop and commercialize new technologies.
Merck takes up a 60 percent market share in liquid crystals and has an annual R&D budget of up to $135 million.
While OLED is a “very interesting technology” and the “only technology that can compete with LCD,” prices and technological imperfection won’t let OLED become mainstream just yet, the executive stressed.
“It will be at least 2018 that OLED prices will come down and make some inroads,” Galinat said.
Merck believes that by 2019, OLED may capture up to 15 percent of the total display market.
Wearable gadgets, which are receiving new attention with the launch of the Galaxy Gear, will become a major trend, but Galinat said the big challenge was increasing their durability.
Solar-powered cells may be another idea for replacing batteries to make the device completely energy-independent, he added.
Meanwhile, Merck’s relationships with its Korean partners, namely Samsung and LG, are said to be “very strong and personal.”
“They are also both very demanding, so we have to move very fast and react very fast,” Galinat said. “This is also why we invest so much here in Korea ― to upgrade ourselves.”
Merck runs an R&D center in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, which houses its only OLED lab outside of the German headquarters.
Galinat hinted there may be room for more business investment in Korea should there be new technologies or opportunities.
Pigments and cosmetics form the other pillar of Merck. Used to coat cars to give them a pearly luster, the pigments are also used in cosmetics such as lipstick.
By Kim Ji-hyun (email@example.com)