Thursday, May 19, 2011

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

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