Electronic Design
SID2010 Puts Displays In The Spotlight

SID2010 Puts Displays In The Spotlight

The Society for Information Display’s annual Display Week Conference and Exhibition came back to Seattle this year amid major changes in the display industry since its last Seattle appearance in 2004.

Six years ago, the emphasis was on manufacturing methods for large LCD and plasma panels for TV, although most TV sets still used cathode-ray tube displays. LEDs were used for pilot lamps, and viable 3D displays were rare and unsatisfying outside of laboratories and theme parks. Connections between TVs and the Internet were still on the horizon, waiting for digital TV and for network speeds to catch up, and Apple’s iPhone hadn’t yet come along to introduce touchscreens and virtual keyboards to consumers.

This year, rapidly changing technology caused market presentations to be updated “on the fly” to reflect 2 million of Apple’s newly introduced iPads, sold in the three months prior to the show. The iPad’s success gave added credibility to tablet computers and other mobile equipment using projected capacitive touchscreens and in-plane switching (IPS) LCDs for high-quality displays.

The SID, a professional society for the display industry, uses this annual conference to recognize outstanding people and accomplishments, including its Display of the Year Awards. For example, the LG Display 47-in. 3D display panel took the Gold Display of the Year Award, while the Pixel Qi 3qi multimode LCD earned the Silver honors.

The SID Display Component of the Year Gold Award went to the N-trig duosense solution pen and touch digitizer, and the Real D XL Cinema System cinema projector accessory for 3D imagery won the Silver Award. The Nikon Coolpix S1000pj compact digital camera with built-in projector won the SID Display Application of the Year Gold Award, and the Nvidia 3D Vision wireless active shutter glasses, which can be used with any 120-Hz certified 3D display, won the Silver Award. 

Display Panels

Numerous exhibitors offered electronic paper. Most promised color displays “within a year.” But most samples had poor contrast and saturation, as well as a generally “muddy” look, especially when they were shown side by side with their high-performing black and white counterparts.

E Ink, the company that pioneered the low-power, bistable technology, has seen rapid growth in e-book readers, with more than 7 million displays used in some 30 different products. The company showed a number of applications that don’t require color, including electronic shelf displays, meeting room signs, and industrial applications, along with rugged displays made on plastic substrates that offer a solution for educational products.

Industrial partners such as Marvel/Skiff, Texas Instruments, Samsung, Freescale Semiconductor, and Sabre are helping E Ink with ASICs. Chilin is a new partner for industrial “end to end” applications. After moving electronic book readers into the mainstream, E Ink seems to be looking for the next new thing.

Meanwhile, Liquivista demonstrated its transflective display technology, which is useful in a wide range of ambient light and potentially a good fit for e-readers, while looking for licensing opportunities. Bridgestone demonstrated e-paper with 16 million colors and promised it by 2011, citing electronic shelf displays as an application.

Pixtronix Inc. demonstrated a 300-dpi digital microshutter technology with high contrast and a wide viewing angle in a 2.5-in. QVGA engineering model. Field sequential color saves power and simplifies the panel structure. Potentially available in tablet size, these displays can be fabricated using standard manufacturing processes. The firm is looking for manufacturing partners.

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DuPont showed progress in developing organic semiconductor materials for printing organic LED (OLED) panels, mainly aimed toward future TV applications. Materials are good now with a 15-year life, and DuPont is working on production processes. At the same time, Samsung showed a 46-in. transparent LCD panel in an impressive simulation of a restaurant window that offered menus and selections through touch technology. And, Novaled showed a white, flexible, transparent OLED.

LED Backlighting Electronics

Endicott Research Group (ERG), which is in the business of supplying backlight power and is a longtime supplier of cold-cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) power supplies, showcased its support for LEDs by demonstrating an 18.5-in. Sharp LQ185T1LGN3-thin WXGA LCD with an LED backlight. New designs mostly use LEDs, and the cost of UL testing will discourage the modification of existing equipment designs

However, ERG global market specialist Bill Abbott expects CCFL to still be used in some medical and price-sensitive applications. Instead of designing power units for CCFL, customers may turn to in-house design of LED power supplies, so ERG is providing essential drivers and wiring kits to get them started. ERG also is addressing semi-custom power supplies and special dimming applications for solid-state (LED) lighting.

LED Light Guides For General Illumination And Displays

Global Lighting Technologies (GLT) uses a thin light-guide material with a microlens surface texture to uniformly distribute light from a small number of LEDs. The firm demonstrated small backlighting modules in 2.4-, 2.8-, and 3.5-in. sizes ranging from 0.3 to 0.55 mm thick with brightness from 4500 to 6600 cd/m2. GLT also demonstrated a 42-in. TV backlight that’s less than 11 mm thick with a brightness of 6000 cd/m2.

The thin light guide can fit between the display and a touch sensor, as used in a virtual keyboard for the Samsung Alias phone, which rotates to accommodate different operating modes. GLT’s microlens technology also works for general-purpose lighting as demonstrated by a white backlight assembly in a 23.5- by 23.5-in. ceiling fixture (troffer). The fixture utilizes 200 LEDs, weighs less than 3 kg, provides a brightness of 24 lumens, and is 0.35 in. thick. Larger sizes will be possible. A new roller-embossing process will make one-piece light guides up to 96 by 96 in.

Rambus, a firm better known for high-speed memory devices, acquired rights to GLT microlens technology late last year. According to Marc McConnaughey, strategic development VP for Rambus, the firm will license the technology to Asian companies for vertical integration of manufacturing for efficient lighting fixtures and TV.

In addition, McConnaughey said that GLT’s diamond turning technology means complex lens microstructures can be designed for a better match to applications such as corner cubes used in reflective signs and highway reflectors. Further evidence of Rambus’ interest in displays and lighting came late in the show as the firm announced it had acquired rights to technologies from Uni-Pixel that can be applied to backlights, light guides, and keyboards.

Touch Technology

3M Touch demonstrated its 22-in. LCD with 20-touch capability, which is a step up from the 19-in., 10-touch developer’s kit seen at last year’s SID show. “We should have 30-in. capability by the end of this year, and eventually 50 to 66 in.,” said Keith Loop, 3M product marketing specialist.

The rejection of unintentional touches is an important part of the user experience, which is the reason multitouch systems are needed. (An older term was “palm rejection.”) “A hand on the screen can mean eight to 10 touches,” said Loop. The 22-in. product has 3350 sensory locations, providing about 16k by 16k resolution. Output is at an approximately 160-Hz sampling rate after noise reduction algorithms. About 30% of applications are for horizontal “table” configurations. 3M will demonstrate a collaborative multi-environment at Infocomm.

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Also at SID2010, Fujitsu introduced multitouch resistive touch panels. Artificial Muscle, which is now a Bayer Electronics subsidiary, Immersion Corp., and Pacinian demonstrated haptic techniques to give a touchscreen the tactile “feel” of pushing a button.

Display Applications

Microchip Technology announced the 8-bit PIC16F707 microcontroller and the mTouch Projected Capacitive Development Kit for displays smaller than 4 in. Designers can use these releases to easily integrate projected capacitive touch-sensing functionality into their application with a single MCU.

The firm also introduced the eight-member PIC24FJ256DA microcontroller family, which integrates three graphics acceleration units and a display controller, along with 96 kbytes of RAM, eliminating the need for external RAM and a display controller, along with development tools for adding advanced human interfaces to 32-bit microcontroller-based designs.

3M Electronics introduced two new materials. First, a cushioning gasket material that can be die-cut provides electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding over a frequency range of 500 Hz to 10 GHz. A transparent conductive film, available in rolls up to 18 in. wide, can be used as an alternative to indium tin oxide (ITO). Second, 3M showed a family of optically clear adhesives and “Light Management Tapes” that can block LED lights used in LCD modules and  provide contrast enhancement when laminated in LCD panels and touchscreens.

Dontech showed new filters, coatings, and components to address a range of issues, including the challenges presented to OEMs and integrators by touchscreens and haptic responders. On display were meshes for optical EMI/RFI (radio-frequency interference) shielding, transparent heaters for LCDs and optics, and adhesives that optically couple a cover glass or touchscreens to the display to eliminate reflection losses.

Miniature Projectors

Miniature projectors are on a path to grow in importance both as “pocket projectors” and as components of other mobile products. DisplaySearch forecasts annual sales to exceed 10 million units and $10 billion by the year 2017.

Microvision demonstrated unique laser projection that does not require focusing. The firm announced plans to expand distribution of its 10-lumen WVGA projector and showed prototypes of a 720p, 15-lumen unit that will use a high-performance green laser developed by Corning and new ASICs. Since no focusing is required, these units should give users and developers of games a new creative dimension.

“Although it’s not a 3D display, the projector can be attached to a game controller to produce a virtual 3D space that literally moves with the user,” said Microvision sales and marketing manager Jacques Lincoln. Developer tools are available.

Show Summary

There are good reasons to be upbeat about SID2010. Attendance and exhibitors were up from last year’s San Antonio show. Displays continue to be enabling technologies for growth markets like games and mobile devices. They also contribute features like 3D TV and ultra thin LED-illuminated big screens.

The early success of Apple’s iPad seems to set a fairly high expectation for quality in touchscreens and displays for mobile equipment. OLEDs are steadily growing stronger as a candidate for future lighter, stronger, and more efficient displays while also providing improved image quality. For the next snapshot of the display business, check out SID2011 in Los Angeles.

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