Monday, May 23, 2011

SID / IMS Conference Delivers the Goods

Among the developing benefits of attending the SID exposition and conference are the growing partnerships established with market research companies like DisplaySearch and, more recently, IMS Research. On Thursday, while the technical programs were in full swing and most exhibitors were busy on the show floor, the e-Book & Tablet Market Evolution conference got underway—and the program didn’t disappoint.

Sriram Peruvemba, CMO of E-Ink, gave the opening keynote, startling the crowd with the prospects of a new “specialty material” from his company featuring a whopping “720 DPI high resolution in both matte and glossy versions…” only to confess this was not an electronic display, but "real ink" on paper—sold by a different division. But remarkably, this set the tone for the early presentations that looked to find distinctions between the e-book reader (EBR) and growing popularity of tablets.

Case in point: while the bulk of LCD fabs world-wide are suffering from the down side of the “Crystal Cycle,” the non-crystal E Ink Holdings display is having a banner year. Peruvemba said the EBR market is characterized by the “hockey stick” driven by 165% growth in 2010, with 44M EBRs forecast to ship in 2012 and 71M by 2015, according to IMS Research’s count.

And while E-Ink did its part to lay out the development plans for future EPH-based products that include the new Triton color displays and applications that cover a spectrum of diversity from smart credit cards to jump drives and watches, and even snowboards with directional compass EPH displays, it’s still EBRs that lead the pack for the low-power display technology. Ross Young underscored the point in his comprehensive market review that (as usual) set the bar for industry research data. He showed on one graph a 40% gross margin for E Ink Holdings (EH) in Q2-10, with numbers hovering around the 30% range since then, through Q1-11. His comment: “the company’s dominance in frontplanes and ePaper displays, and patent holder of FFS is a desirable position to be in.”

CEA’s Director of Research, Shawn Dubravac, made the point that eReaders are distinct products, with only 12% of EBR shoppers considering a substitute device. That’s lowest by far among the group that includes: Netbooks (66%) Tablets (29%), and Laptops (20%) according to the Google/Compete Portable PC Shopping Study (Oct-2010.) And interest in EBRs remains high, as CEA studies show that plans to purchase the devices are still accelerating among “non-owners.” Tablet vs. EBR owners even look at themselves differently, Dubravac said, showing a slide that characterized 35- to 40% of households buying tablets as considering themselves “early adopters” versus only 15- to 20% of EBR households. To Dubravac, this is “…not surprising given what the technology is doing.” We’ve already adopted “book technology” and he considers EBRs simply “…another iteration of it.” This is an indicator of how consumers are thinking about that category, and what the EBR does for them, “…with implications on how this category evolves”

So for the near term, conventional thinking sees tablets and EBRs continuing to coexist, with one the multi-purpose “second screen” identified by Steve Jobs at the original iPad product launch, and an app base growing by the thousands every month, and the other, a single-purpose book reader that is simply an extension of a 1000 year old process that started with Guttenberg.

But by definition, evolution is not static, and full-color saturated magazine content is already being delivered in next-generation formats, on the iPad. And some people are still not convinced that a single-purpose device (extension of a thousand-year-old practice or not) can survive the onslaught of both innovation and consumers’ desire for full color, full-motion video, and a next-generation intelligent interface, all in sexy packaging.

When push comes to shove, do you carry that single purpose EBR, or the all-purpose tablet? We’ll see. Suffice to say, this SID/IMS conference gave us some real food for thought. –--Steve Sechrist

Thursday, May 19, 2011

OLED Technical Sessions

The OLED Technical Sessions opened today with many interesting technical talks from companies such as Universal Display Corp, LG Displays, Samsung Mobile, Sony, AUO, Idemitsu Kosan, CDT, and many others. The key themes included the advances of integrating OLEDs with mixed oxide thin film transistors for improved operating stability and increased resolution; advances in small molecule phosphorescent technology; transparent and 3D displays; and polymer-based systems. Tomorrow's technical sessions will continue with OLED physics and OLED lighting.

The exhibit hall showcased several OLED lighting demonstrations from Novaled, UDC and DuPont, leading materials suppliers in the field as well as equipment manufacturer Sunic Systems developing advanced deposition tools for the lighting and display industries.--Eric Forsythe

OLED Highlights

The OLED displays in this year's SID exhibit include:

-DuPont Display's 5.8" full color printed display with a resolution of 294xRGBx196. The display highlights the unique low-cost printing process technology produced a display with 'better uniformity than AMLCD'. This OLED display is the largest format in this year's SID exhibit.

-The Flexible Display Center at Arizona State University's 3.8" QVGA
full color OLED display on the DuPont Teijin PEN substrate fabricated with
the unique bond-debond process patented by ASU. The flexible display
features Universal Display Corp's full-phosphorescent OLEDs and thin film
barrier technology.

-eMagin Corp's highest resolution full color OLED
microdisplay; 1920xRGBx1200, 9.6um pitch.

--Eric Forsythe

Displays Go Green

Yesterday, I attended the IMS Research “Green Displays” market focus conference within the SID Display Week 2011 conference. The program included presenters from a wide range of prominent companies that are involved in different parts of the display industry, including Merck, Corning, Samsung, and LG.

One might have the initial reaction that this is just some lightweight tree-hugger topic that companies use to demonstrate their social conscience and responsible attitude. While it is true that saving energy and using environmentally friendly materials and procedures do have some general benefit, I was struck by the fact that most of these efforts are driven by solid bottom-line business considerations.

For example, if you use thinner glass in a flat-panel display, the finished product takes up less space. This means that you can fit more units in a container, which in turn lowers shipping costs. That lighter glass will also reduce the total weight, which also can reduce freight costs. If the thinner glass costs less because it uses less material, that is simply extra gravy on the balance sheet.

Similar arguments can be made for everything from controller design, use of LED lighting, and even the industrial gases used in manufacturing processes. These improvements can save money and help the environment at the same time. One problem, however, is that the savings don’t always occur in the same place that has to fund the improvement. As Bruce Berkoff of the LCD TV Association pointed out, the use of a better grade of plastic packing material can make more reliable and smaller packaging per unit. You might be able to save $20 in shipping by spending $0.80 more on the packing material. The problem is that the department that buys the packing material is not the same one that pays for the shipping, so the extra expense for one may not be approved in spite of the potential savings for another.

My take-away for the day was that there are real and tangible cost savings for the manufacturer and the consumer that can come from adopting green materials, technology, and processes. The social benefits are additional intangible returns, but the opportunity is there to make changes for the better based on financial considerations alone.
Alfred Poor. HDTV Almanac

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

E-paper Power Play: Ricoh's 3-Layer CMY Display

Arguably one of the most exciting presentations at SID was Ricoh’s three-layer CMY electrochromic display. Why was this so exciting? First, the white state reflectance was 70% (altough black state was not fully black yet). Second, the colors and gamut were larger than any other technology presented. Third, the stacked display used a common electrolyte, which coupled all three layers to a single backplane. This eliminates many of the optical losses in CMY stacking.

Only two substrates were used, a first ever for stacked e-Paper. Although slow (it took seconds to refresh) the grayscale and color gamut were striking for a first demo. I am still astonished at how 3 layers can be stacked and addressed between just two substrates. Ricoh reported that each layer is only ~ 2 ┬Ám thick, and when questioned in the session, claimed 20,000 cycles of operation. Akira Suzuki of Ricoh has been seen at every display conference for as long as I can remember, perhaps assessing what technologies Ricoh should pursue. Looks like its first major bet may now be played. Jason Heikenfeld

3M’s Disappearing Trick

May 18, 2011. How do you make three kilograms disappear from a typical 55-inch LCD panel? 3M is well known for its optical films, so it may be a bit surprising to learn how it can accomplish this trick: get rid of optical films in the LCD panel stack.

The typical edge-lit panel has a reflective bottom layer to recover scattered light, and then a series of layers including a light guide, diffuser, and collimator. In addition, air gaps are required to make the optics work. Building on its experience with multi-layer optical films such as DBEF reflective polarizers, 3M has developed a film that is applied directly to the back of the LCD panel. This film is called “Collimating Multi-layer Optical Film” (CMOF), and is combined with a rear reflective layer separated by an air gap to create the “Air Guide” light mixing system.

One of the benefits of this approach is that it saves material and assembly costs by eliminating all the free-floating films and their required substrates. This leads to secondary advantages such as lower shipping costs.

The technology has many other advantages, however. For example, the standard spacing for LEDs in an edge-light configuration is 12 mm. The reason is the light guides cannot produce a uniform illumination if the LEDs are spaced further apart. 3M has demonstrated the Air Guide technology with LEDs spaced 60 mm apart. This has many implications. For example, designers can now use fewer LEDs with higher brightness, which could help with thermal management. Or they could keep the traditional spacing, and if an LED should fail, it would only make the panel slightly dimmer. This would reduce the need to repair panels under warranty.

The more efficient light mixing also means that designers no longer have to buy the expensive binned white LEDs that everyone else needs for their backlights. Instead, they can use a mix of outliers that are available at much lower cost, and still achieve the same desired color temperature.

This new technology could be a major game changer in LCD panels, eliminating 90% of the light management materials.--Alfred Poor, HDTV Almanac

3D: Samsung Goes Actively Passive

May 18, 2011. At CES in January, Samsung and company (including Sony, Panasonic and others) positioned active 3DTV Shutter Glasses as the “step-up technology” from lighter, lower-cost passive shutter glasses. Active technology keeps 3D display resolution high, but at the cost of a dimmer image, heavy glasses, and added expense to the consumer that (depending on the number of glasses needed) can approach 25% or more of the cost of the TV.

Other issues, including the impracticality of keeping enough pairs of 3D glasses on hand to serve the needs of guests, then keeping track of the expensive accessories, only added to the grief associated with moving to 3D at home adoption.

Too much! Cried LG at CES, as the company threw all its weight behind the passive approach, stating its research showed consumers could overlook the ½ resolution 3D image downgrade in favor of the benefits associated with using low-cost (sometimes no-cost) passive glasses that just happen to work with the RealD versions that many consumers kept from a recent trip to a 3D movie.

But here at the 2011 SID conference on the opening day of the show floor, Samsung and RealD (yep the same one with passive shutter glasses that work with LG) announced a joint licensing agreement in which Samsung will license and make RDZ version passive 3DTVs that support a full 1080p resolution to each eye—not the half resolution used in the LG approach.

Clearly Samsung has done a re-think on the “step-up” messaging it was giving with the active 3D shutter glasses approach. The company may have recognized the wisdom in the LG customer centric approach, and did their rival one better with its no-compromise passive shutter glass solution for its 3DTV at home.
Reports say Samsung will ship a pair of 3D monitors first (23- and 27-inch class) with a 55-inch class 3DLCD TV to follow. With passive glasses getting so much attention these days, perhaps the biggest winner is RealD. – Steve Sechrist

OLED Displays at SID

May 18, 2011. The Society for Information Display's annual conference opened this week with several interesting OLED display technology trends. The OLED technical sessions open on Thursday, and will showcase the latest scientific and technical advances in the OLED display field. This OLED and emissive display blog will outline the exciting trends at the show.

It is interesting to note that many of the leading commercial OLED display manufacturers do not have OLED displays at this year’s SID exhibit. The OLED displays in this year’s SID exhibit showcase emerging display technologies, such as a 3.8” full-color flexible OLED display from the US Army’s Flexible Display Center, Arizona State University in partnership with DuPont Teijin Films, and Universal Display Corp.; DuPont Displays' full-color, high-performance OLED displays fabricated by low-cost printing process; eMagin's high-resolution full-color micro-display; commercial OLED deposition equipment from Sunic; and solid state lighting demonstrations from Universal Display Corp, DuPont, and Novaled.

Check tomorrow's blog more details on the above products and others. Eric Forsythe

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Do LG’s Passive 3D Glasses Point the Way For 3D At Home?

Tuesday, May 17. With the feud still simmering between Samsung and LG over active vs. passive 3D glasses, Dr. Min-Sung Yoon, Chief Research Engineer, 3D Technology at, LG Display pulled no punches at his presentation yesterday at the SID Business Conference co-sponsored by Display Search.

The afternoon session by Dr. Yoon focused on his company’s insistence that its version of passive 3D using film patterned retarders (FPRs) truly does represent “A New Paradigm in 3D Display,” with technology advancements that virtually eliminate flicker and cross-talk, and include viewer-friendly features such as light, brightness, and very low-cost 3D glasses.

The technology even supports 3D viewing with your head tilted, or lying down—a claim that two months earlier, prompted a public war of words between rival TV maker Samsung (primarily in the active 3D glasses camp), which publicly announced, “There’s no 3D that works while you are lying down sideways!” A subsequent war of words played out in the Korean media this past March.

The issue gets down to LG’s circular polarization (in FPR approach) versus the linear polarization used in traditional liquid-crystal module (LCM) and shutter glasses. For LG, the string of benefits goes well beyond consumer preferences of low cost, comfort, and simplicity of specifications with the promise of no flicker, low cross talk, enhanced brightness, and frame rate and freedom of motion that includes head tilting while viewing.

We think LG is demonstrating thought leadership in this field, with its consumer preference approach—that may just lead to the next standard (passive shutter glasses) in the 3DTV at home space. Time will tell. -- Steve Sechrist

Notes from the show floor: Magic Rocks, digital snowboards, and one very bright light

Tuesday, May 17, 2011. The Display Week exhibition opened today at 10:30. It wasn't possible in one day to check out even a quarter of what was on the show floor -- Samsung's booth, for example, was chock full of fantastic-looking displays but was so popular that it was also chock full of people. Big, beautiful displays are hard for anybody to resist, of course. I'll make sure to get there early tomorrow to take a closer look.

The most stunning display I saw today was anything but large -- a 3.9-inch autostereo panel from NEC. The 2D/3D FWGA-VT LCD was displaying imagery of fish swimming among coral, and the 3D effect was so realistic that I wanted to reach "in" and touch it. The coral looked a little like those Magic Rocks crystals we (those of us of a certain age) used to grow when we were little. This lovely little display is a prototype, one of several impressive 3D prototypes that NEC has on display this week. Check it out.

Over at E Ink's booth, there was lots to see in addition to the e-readers that have been the company's bread and butter over the last few years. E Ink was showing several conceptual products that suggest clever uses for its electrophoretic technology. One of these is a snowboard with a display showing the temperature, time, weather, compass direction, and other types of information that might be useful to somebody on the slopes. When asked if the display could stand up to the shredding of the average teen rider, E Ink's Sri Peruvemba pointed to the E Ink displays on the floor of the booth that it's possible to step on -- and even stomp on. I stomped hard, but they didn't break. Other conceptual products included an electronic toll pass, a thermostat, a universal remote, and a music stand display. Peruvemba's inspiration for the last product, he says, was watching one child turn pages for another during his daughter's recent music recital. With music displayed via electronic ink, nobody has to be a page turner.

Last, Global Lighting Technologies was showing a general illumination panel that was so bright it had to be turned aside slightly so the inhabitants of a nearby booth were not subjected to unwanted super-bright illumination. (The panel is normally designed for a top-down installation.) Industry interest in LEDs for general illumination has led to a nice new business for GLT, which recently spun out a new division based on this product category. The company's background in creating LED light guides came in handy for this, notes GLT Director of Sales Brett Shriver, who added that most lighting applications don't require the same level of uniformity as displays.

Tomorrow, I'll check out those Samsung panels, and a lot, lot more --Jenny Donelan, Managing Editor, Information Display

Market Dynamics in China

Monday, May 16, 2011. It was really exciting to see such a great turnout for this year's annual SID Business Conference organized by DisplaySearch. As usual, DisplaySearch did a great job organizing a program that highlighted some of the most dynamic areas of the marketplace, including infrastructure investment and emerging markets in China and 3D technology expansion.

In the opening session, analysts Paul Semenza and Jennifer Colegrove broke down the overall display marketplace and then did a fairly deep dive into the details of the very powerful, growing end user/consumer market in China, as well as the build-out of display manufacturing infrastructure that is well underway. A growing number of well-known major FPD manufacturers are investing in fabs and assembly plants within China. Over the next few years, as many as nine new full-scale LCD fabrication facilities could be coming on line if all the current plans are realized. The goal, at least in part, is the huge consumer base in China that is starting to enjoy economic benefit to adopt all the electronic gadgets these displays go into, including handheld devices and TVs. Added to this picture is the growing investment in OLED technology, and we learned about several new OLED manufacturing investments that are being planned, downstream and incremental from the core TFT lines already mentioned.

In order to support this build-out, the entire supply chain has to be developed and Mr. Frank Shao of Tianma Micro-Electronics Co. provided more details about the current weakness of the materials supply chain in China -- components such as polarizers, color filters, glass, and of course, the fab equipment itself, is generally all made only outside of China and all this investment will also be required to achieve a fully supported industry. At least one supplier, Corning, spoke directly about its plans to make major investments in conjunction with the new fab build-outs, as it has done in other countries.

An interesting take-away from the morning session was the apparent split between some companies building LTPS TFT fabrication and others staying with a-Si TFT lines, which can be interpreted to mean that there is significant confidence in oxide TFTs. Oxide TFTs can be made with only minor changes on traditional a-Si lines, whereas LTPS is a very different process and equipment model. This will be something we'll be watching more closely over the next few years. – Stephen Atwood, Executive Editor, Information Display.

Religious Wars: Shutter vs. Passive Glasses

At the Business Display Conference yesterday, we got to witness the growing competition between two technologies. It’s a familiar story: VHS vs. Betamax, Mac vs. PC, Blu-ray vs. HD DVD. But this time, there’s an interesting twist; some companies are backing both horses in this race.

The competition is between stereoscopic television technologies (3DTV). The early leader is the shutter glass (SG) solution. Left and right images are presented in rapid succession on the screen, and the lenses in the glasses block or transmit the light to the corresponding eyes of the viewer. The other approach uses a patterned retarder (PR) on the display itself so that half the image is polarized one way, while the other half is polarized the other. The result is that passive polarized glasses can separate the images for the viewer.

What we saw yesterday was how the two camps have managed to spin the “advantages” of their approach compared with the “disadvantages” of the competition. Unfortunately, some of this is getting a bit silly. For example, the SG camp likes to bang on the claim that their solution provides a full resolution image to each eye, while the PR approach only delivers half the pixels to each eye. This would be more impressive if it weren’t for the fact that many of the 3DTV encoding systems present both the left and right image in a single full resolution frame, which means that most of the content shown on SG displays will be at half resolution anyway.

The PR folks are not above using a bit of hyperbole themselves. They take every opportunity to rail about the heavy and expensive shutter glasses, and how they are a big barrier to consumer acceptance of 3DTV. This would be more effective if it weren’t for the fact that some of the newest shutter glasses are very sleek and lightweight. And Samsung is leading the way in lowering the price from as much as $200 to just $50 a pair. I know people who aren’t happy with their sunglasses if they don’t spend more than $50 on them, so this price probably is not a huge problem.

The danger in setting up false comparisons between different technologies is that you risk confusing and even annoying consumers. In the end, they will make their decision based on performance and price. Convoluted arguments about finer points that deliver some slight advantage will be a waste of resources. Keep in mind that a majority of U.S. consumers are very happy watching standard definition DVDs on their HDTVs, so don’t expect them to respond just because a given technology is “better."
--Alfred Poor, HDTV Almanac

Monday, May 16, 2011

Seminars, Tutorials, and Business Conference Kick Off Display Week 2011

The sun is shining and the skies are (mostly) clear in downtown LA today. Inside the Los Angeles Convention Center, attendees have been streaming into meeting rooms all day, with many attending the Business Conference presentations co-sponsored by the Society for Information Display and market research firm DisplaySearch.

The Applications Tutorials and Display Technology Seminars have also started up. I had a chance to catch a seminar by Sharp Corporation's Michiyuki Sugino on "Novel Breakthroughs toward Future TVs" this morning. Sugino described recent developments being made by Sharp in the area of flat-panel displays. He started with a brief history of television technology, starting with CRTs back in 1041, color CRTs in 1954, the introduction of TFT-LCD TVs in 1987, and his company's current multiprimary (red, green, blue, and yellow) LCD technology, Quattron. Sugino also provided a useful history and overview of the pros and cons of various display measurement scales for both luminance and color.

The Quattron multiprimary technology and white LED backlighting used in Sharp's new AQUOS LCD-TV enables a display with realistic color, improved perceived resolution, reduced motion blur, and energy-efficient operation. For more information, visit --Jenny Donelan