----Wicue recently completed a 200 million RMB B round financing from Walden International. The following report is from the 36 Kr Lu Jingwen.
36 Kr learned that [Wicue] announced it has completed a round of financing of nearly 200 million yuan led by Walden International. Previously, [Wicue] had received strategic financing from KCH Capital Fund, Cowin Capital, CDF Capital and Qingyuan Venture Capital. Leap Capital served as the exclusive financing advisor for this round. This round of financing will be mainly used for the construction of large-size LCD stepless dimming film production lines for automotive and architectural glass, as well as for market promotion and team building.
[Wicue] was established in March 2014 by Dr. Fenghua Li, a Silicon Valley LCD scientist, focusing on the R&D and production of flexible LC materials and application products. At present, the company has realized a wealth of SKU products and established a stereoscopic sales model through the application of the independently developed Wicue LC technology to cut into various consumption scenarios -- covering classrooms with bright LCD film handwriting blackboards, car windows, building exterior windows, and wearable devices such as flexible stepless dimming LC film, intelligent stepless dimming glasses, helmets and so on.
The application direction of LC technology is mainly used in: TFT-LCD flat panel display, dimming film, classroom handwriting blackboard, optical communication wavelength selection switch, and other applications of LC sensor and 5G antenna. Among them, the light-darkness stepless dimming film is a high-end technology product of smart dimming glass. There is no polymer glue in the light-darkness stepless dimming film. The mixture of LC molecules and light-absorbing molecules is attached to the flexible ITO substrate and introduced through edge electrodes. After the voltage is turned on again, the arrangement of LC molecules and light-absorbing molecules is changed to control the brightness and color of the glass. This technology is called LC light control technology, which can solve the problems of heat insulation, UV resistance, and indoor and outdoor use. A wide range of applications, such as: car sunroofs, car windshields, side windows, building exterior glass, etc.
The LC electronic handwriting blackboard also uses flexible LC technology, which is made of cholesteric LC and polymer mixture to make a bistable LCD, which can squeeze the surface of the LC film through the sharp end of the object and change the arrangement of the LC molecules To display notes to achieve writing functions, rely on pressure-sensitive electronic devices to display handwriting.
At present, there are three dimming film technology widely used on the market -- PDLC (polymer dispersed liquid crystal) technology, EC (electrochromic) technology and SPD (suspended particle device) technology:
Comparison of dimming film technology paths
1. The technical principle of PDLC technology is to change the orientation of LC molecules through a voltage of about 50V, use the large contrast between the refractive index and the refractive index of the substrate to achieve transparency, scattering in the film, switch between the transparent state and the milky white opaque state. The advantage is that the technology is mature, Low price; Mainly used for privacy glass, the disadvantage is that it cannot be insulated, cannot adjust the transmittance, cannot achieve low haze, and has limited performance and cannot be widely used.
2. The principle of EC (Electrochromic) technology is the phenomenon that the reverse oxidation and reduction reaction of the material caused by the change of the polarity and intensity of the applied electric field, which leads to the change of its color. The advantage of EC technology is that it has been widely used in automobile rearview mirrors, aircraft portholes and other scenes. The technology is relatively mature. The disadvantage is that the cost is very high and the response speed is very slow (large glass curtain wall requires about 10-60 minutes to switch). The glass is very bluish, and it cannot directly contact oxygen and water molecules, so it cannot be used for post-attachment and other processes. In addition, it cannot realize the dark state when there is no electricity. The car parked in the parking lot needs electricity to maintain the dark state, and the dark state is very dark. It is difficult to reach below 1%, so it cannot be used for skylights. At present, there is basically no application for car windows.
3. The SPD technology is similar to the ordinary window tinting technology, in which a layer of tiny capsules containing suspended crystals is embedded, and the direction of alertness is changed by applying an electric field to change the light transmittance. SPD technology is currently used in high-end Mercedes-Benz cars, yachts and other scenes; the disadvantages are high haze, high power consumption and blue color. Also, the driving voltage exceeds 100V. The car factory is looking for alternatives.
Among the representative companies of EC technology in the market are GENTEX, View, and SageGlass. Due to the high requirements of the production process and the high cost of this technology, it is about 10,000 yuan per square meter. Currently, it is only used in the construction field and small size car rearview mirror scene application.
There are three types of companies in the SPD technology industry chain: the technology licensor "Research Frontiers" invented and monopolized the technology to charge for the technology; the raw material manufacturers "Hitachi Chemical" and "GALACTIC" authorized the production of raw materials and promoted them to the corresponding market; glass manufacturers "Asahi Glass", "Fuyao Glass", "NSG Group", "Saint-Gobain", etc. process the final application products.
[Wicue] independently developed Wicue CCS (Crystal Clear Switching) LC film technology. The principle is that by adding dye molecules to the LC, the orientation of the LC is changed simultaneously under the action of an electric field, thereby changing the angle between the absorption axis of the dye molecules and the direction of the incident light to change the transmittance.
In terms of market applications, [Wicue] LCD film technology is mainly used in E-writing blackboards (electronic consumer products and educational office blackboards), dimming glasses, automotive dimming glass and architectural dimming glass.
In the E-writing blackboard market, Wicue’s competitive advantage is high brightness, high contrast, and stable performance. The company has developed a large-size handwriting board that can be partially erased to further replace classroom chalk blackboards, remove chalk dust, and protect the health of teachers and students.
[Wicue] Smart LCD E-writing Blackboard
In the automotive dimming glass market, the main competitors are Japan's "DNP Printing Co., Ltd." and South Korea's "LG Chemistry". Domestic companies are also conducting research and development of automotive dimming films, mainly using EC technology and LC glass. At present, EC technology manufacturers have not yet entered the automotive side window and sunroof market. Other glass-based LC technologies have high cost and technical difficulties that cannot be made into curved surfaces. They cannot be post-attached, nor can they be used on car windows.
[Wicue] Automotive Dimming Film
The comparative advantage of [Wicue] is that it has the world's only roll-to-roll flexible LC film production equipment and mass production experience. The application of stepless dimming film in automobiles is mainly used by various automobile glass manufacturers as light control glass. Most of the market share of automobile glass is occupied by Asahi Glass, Fuyao Glass, NSG Group, and Saint-Gobain. Wicue LCD Film has been cooperating with major international auto glass manufacturers for more than two years.
In the architectural glass market, products can be divided into two main uses: for indoor privacy and outdoor light control with heat insulation. Indoor privacy mainly adopts PDLC technology, and currently there are mature production lines in China. However, dimming glass for building exterior walls is an emerging field globally. The current main technical method is EC technology. Sage and View have large-scale production lines of 1.5*3.0 meters, but the production cost is higher than US$1,500/square meter.
[Wicue] Architectural Curtain Wall Dimming Film
At present, [Wicue] E-writing blackboard and glasses products have been fully commercialized; some automotive products have been commercialized, and related production lines are currently being expanded to expand production capacity; consumer electronics and architectural curtain wall application scenarios have performance and price advantages, so we are increasing the expansion of production capacity.
Beginning in 2019, [Wicue] began to testing for commercialize, and elevate E-writing blackboard and glasses, while continuing to elevate the dimming film technology. At present, the dimming film technology has achieved preliminary commercialization in the automobile front-loading, and is preparing for large-scale production. It is expected that in the next three years, the company will develop the large-scale production capacity of commercial products in the fields of automobile front-loading, consumer electronics, and construction.
[Wicue] is currently establishing a new production line in Zhejiang, and has R&D bases in Shenzhen, Japan, and Germany. In the future, it will improve its production lines around the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta.
In terms of customer expansion, the E-writing education blackboard of [Wicue] adopt the form of cooperation with agents and large educational equipment companies, and have been widely used in the education industry; its vehicle regulation level products are mainly used by many Fortune 500 companies in the form of direct sales and it has reached cooperation with vehicle manufacturers and glass manufacturers; consumer electronics products have cooperated with leading domestic and foreign eyewear companies, and the market share of related products is leading internationally.
[Wicue] Smart Dimming Glasses
The use of glass has been expanding year by year: the demand for large glass skylights in electric vehicles has increased, and the performance improvement requirements of large electronic screens in office equipment such as mobile phones, and the upgrading of traditional buildings to carbon-neutral smart buildings adopting larger areas and more intelligent heat insulation, it is technical iteration of glass curtain walls. The transformation of traditional glasses to smart wear, requires automatic adjustment of brightness and refractive index, the intelligent penetration rate of glass will gradually increase in various scenes. The demand for the entire glass intelligent market is as high as over 300 billion yuan.
[Wicue] Smart Dimming and Toning Mobile Phone
[Wicue] currently has a total of more than 300 employees, has R&D and production teams around the world. The international R&D team has more than 7 foreign PhDs. The founder and chairman Li Fenghua has more than ten years of technical research and development experience in the optics and liquid crystal industry. He is a PhD in physical optics from the Liquid Crystal Institute of Kent State University (the world’s first liquid crystal research institute), and is the founding team’s R&D director, European president, Taiwan general managers have also been deeply involved in the optical industry for decades.
[Wicue] will achieve revenue of nearly 100 million yuan in 2020, with the main revenue coming from the sales of E-writing blackboard and glasses. In 2021, Wicue will enter the automotive glass, curtain wall glass and LCD blackboard educational office equipment market and continue to expand the consumer market. With the commissioning of new production lines, the company's LCD film products will further increase market penetration and achieve revenue growth.