Apple Mini LEDsApple reportedly will be making a rare investment to expand surface mounting technology (SMT) assembly capacity at its partners to satisfy demand for its miniLED-backlit devices including the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and upcoming MacBook series, according to supply chain sources.

The US vendor is set to release new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro devices featuring miniLED displays in late third-quarter 2021, and its related supply chain partners are all gearing up preparations seeking to kick off volume production in the quarter, the sources said.

Affected by lower-than-expected yield rates for miniLED panels, volume shipments of 12.9-inch iPad Pro released in April has been deferred from the second to the third quarter. This, coupled with the upcoming new MacBook Pro series, will drastically push up demand for SMT solutions that integrate miniLED chips, ICs and other components onto PCB boards, the sources said. SMT capacity and yield rates count greatly in volume production of miniLED-backlit Apple devices, the sources added.

To secure smooth shipments of new MacBook Pro, Apple reportedly will inject around US$200 million to procure SMT equipment for four new assembly lines, aiming to provide an additional monthly SMT capacity for 700,000-800,000 units of miniLED MacBook Pro devices when shipments are set to peak starting in October, the sources said.

At the moment, Taiwan Surface Mounting Technology (TSMT) is the main supplier of miniLED modules for Apple devices, with its existing eight dedicated production lines for Apple devices expected to run at full capacity starting in second-half 2021 through first-half 2022 to support volume production of both miniLED-backlit iPad Pro and MacBook Pro devices, the sources said.

The new SMT machines to be purchased by Apple are likely to be installed at TSMT’s plants in China, the sources said, adding that TSMT has just disclosed plans to enforce capacity expansions at its manufacturing complex in Dongguan, southern China.

Apple is also looking to foster a second SMT service partner, with possible candidates including its existing miniLED backlight module supplier Radiant Opto-Electronics, the sources said, adding that Radiant is setting up an R&D-use SMT assembly line to support its assessment on whether to join the SMT segment.

Both TSMT and Radiant saw their revenues for the first five months of the year rise significantly partly on their shipments for miniLED-backlit Apple devices, the sources said. TSMT’s revenues for the period surged 48% on year to NT$21.75 billion (US$779.57 million), and Radiant’s rose 25.84% to NT$23.47 billion.

Meanwhile, LG Display reportedly will be the main supplier of miniLED panels for the upcoming new MacBook Pro series, and Quanta Computer will be the major assembler of the devices, while Zhen Ding Technology and Tripod Technology will join the supply of required miniLED-backlit boards, the sources said.

Reference: DigiTimesAsia