LG's 88-inch 8K Z9 OLED TV on display during the Appliance & Electronics World Expo 2019 (AWE 2019) in Shanghai. Photo: AFP

South Korea’s LG Display has succeeded in utilizing Korean etching gas for the production of display panels.

“LG Display has finished testing Korean made etching gas and will put it into production process within this month,” an industry source said to Asia Times.

In display production, the etching gas is mainly used for cleaning, and small amounts are used to make circuits on display panels. The technology cuts off unnecessary parts except for circuits. As with the semiconductor etching process, display production also requires high-purity etching gas but does not need much of it, according to industry insiders.

Samsung Display is also known to be testing locally made-etching gas. But both Samsung and LG officials refuse to comment saying multiple sourcing of materials is a sensitive issue.

Despite this move for multiple sourcing, South Korean display makers remain concerned about Japan’s export regulations.

“Display is currently produced in South Korea and China, but it was born in Japan and is still highly dependent on Japanese equipment and components.” said a source in the industry. “We are still cautious because we do not know what action the Japanese government will take in the future while we rely on Japan in sourcing many parts and materials.”

Tokyo excluded Korea from a “white list” of preferential export destinations following tightened export regulations on three key semiconductor and display materials.

In particular, it required the Japanese chip and display material manufacturers to obtain individual approval from the Japanese government when they export to Korea etching gas; fluoride polyimide, which is used in displays; and photoresist used for the EUV (extreme ultraviolet) process to fabricate semiconductor substrates.

According to industry sources, LG Display does not use Japanese fluorine polyimide, while Samsung Display is planning to replace it with Korean products.

Semiconductor industries are also testing locally-made etching gas.

“Semiconductor and display industries have different processes, and semiconductor makers need a longer test period.” said an industry insider.

Park Young-sun, the minister for small and medium enterprises and startups, said last month in an interview with local radio, “Polyimide and etching gas are in a situation where you can rest now.”

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