The struggling TV manufacturers will still sell their own sets. But the collaboration could result in a manufacturing process that would make the super thin and vivid but pricey organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays more affordable. Until this year, OLED was only available in the U.S. on screens smaller than 20 inches. But Samsung and LG plan to bring the technology — which doesn’t require a back light — to large sets. Apple’s also widely believed to be eyeing OLED displays for its TV set. The consumer electronics industry is eager for OLED to catch on: Worldwide TV shipments declined 8% in Q1 vs the same period last year, with LCD displays down for the first time ever, research firm NPD DisplaySearch reported last week. This is the first time that Sony and Panasonic have collaborated on TV set development. Here’s their release:

Japan, June 25, 2012 – Sony Corporation (“Sony”) and Panasonic Corporation (“Panasonic”) today announced that they have signed an agreement regarding the joint development of next-generation OLED (organic light-emitting diode) panels and modules for TVs and large-sized displays.

Sony and Panasonic plan to jointly develop next-generation OLED panels and modules by each utilizing their core and printing technologies. They plan to jointly develop printing method-based next-generation OLED technology, which will be suitable for low-cost mass production of large, high resolution OLED panels and modules. Sony and Panasonic aim to establish mass-production technology during 2013, by integrating their unique technologies to improve the overall efficiency of development.

Sony launched the world’s first OLED TV in 2007 with its 11-inch model. Sony also released a 25-inch professional OLED monitor in 2011, and continued to develop products and mass-produce OLED displays utilizing deposition technologies. Further, Sony has actively promoted the research and development of next-generation OLED technologies such as hybrid OLED element devices and processing (manufacturing) technologies that combine deposition and printing methods, thin film transistor (TFT) drivers such as oxide TFTs, and flexible organic TFTs, and has presented its development results at academic conferences.

Panasonic is a leader in the technology development of large-sized screen, high-resolution OLED panels and utilizes the cutting-edge “all printing method”, among other printing methods which have the advantage of being competitive for producing large-sized screens at a lower cost. Panasonic owns the unique production and equipment technologies which enable the production of OLED panels through this method. Panasonic is also pursuing the future possibility of OLED panels, and is carrying out research and development of advancements in flexible OLED panels and aiming to develop large-sized, high quality sheet-type displays.

In parallel with the joint development of the next-generation technologies of the OLED panels and modules, Sony and Panasonic plan to continue to study collaboration in the mass production of OLED panels and modules. Also, each company plans to utilize its own strengths to develop and commercialize its own competitive, high-performance, next-generation OLED televisions and large-sized displays.