It has been reported that Samsung Display has decided in their new equipment purchasing policy to exclude equipment produced by Toptec, due to suspicions that the company has leaked technology in the past.
According to the industry on the 20th, Samsung Display plans to change the procurement of '3D laminator', which is the core post-processing equipment for edge organic light emitting diode (OLED) display panel production, to APsystem. They have also planned to modularize and block important parts so that they can outsource production when needed. It was reported that they have begun specifying the work.
Samsung Display has been exclusively supplied 3D laminator equipment from Toptec. Although the equipment was produced by Toptec, the details of production planning, core design and structure were handed over to Samsung Display or developed cooperatively. Originally, one Japanese company was involved in such joint development. However, the cost of Japanese equipment was high, so Samsung Display selected only the Toptec equipment to utilize.
Under the terms of the “Joint Development” agreement of two companies, Toptec could not sell their equipment to other companies.
However, on the 14th of last month, prosecutors announced that they had searched Toptec’s headquarters due to accusations of technology leakage. The prosecution believes that Toptec sold 3D laminator equipment to China and leaked technology. It is said that Toptec has made a paper company using its relatives and has already sold 3D laminator equipment to China's BOE through this company. The government also delayed the awarding of chairman of Toptec, Lee Jae-hwan's Bronze Tower Industrial Medal on October 1, 'Display Day'.
Samsung Display has already confirmed such activities in the first half of this year, and begun to diversify its equipment suppliers. It is said that APsystem has already completed development of 3D laminator equipment according to Samsung Display’s inquiry. Although an official order has not yet been issued, it is reported that Samsung Display will restart investing in the module process line and that APsystem’s equipment will be arranged for .
An industry insider said, "APsystem tried to sell equipment to China and set their relationship with Samsung apart... however, the court ruled APsystem not guilty. Also Kim Young-joo from Samsung Corning became the CEO and they became strongly linked again.”
The 3D laminator is one of the essential pieces of equipment for implementing edge OLED displays with curved edges of the screen. Unlike flat laminate equipment, the 3D laminator applies a special technique that prevents the curved area of the end of screen from rising.
An industry insider of display post-processing equipment said, “Sticking (laminator), pressing to remove air bubbles (crave), hardening by UV (curing) are the procedures of display module processing” and “out of all these, Lami equipment is the core of cores.” And another insider mentioned “Lami equipment will be excluded, however, since Toptec holds world-class technology in some automation component control areas, it's not likely that the business will be completely terminated.”
Toptec recorded sales of 1 trillion 128.4 billion KRW and revenue of 211.7 billion KRW on the back of Samsung Display's investment expansion last year. Sales leaped up to 189% and revenue to 404%. However, sales for the first half of this year are 206.9 billion KRW and revenue is 14.2 billion KRW each of which have decreased to 70.8% and 90.1% compared to the first half of last year. Although Samsung Display's investment has decreased, it is mostly concerned with orders from the major client, Samsung Display will be cut off due to the accusation of technology leakage.