I am writing this in Yokohama, where Flat Panel Display International (FPDI) 2007 is in full swing. There is more than the usual level of excitement here, and that’s not only because the flat-panel display industry is rapidly growing and (finally) highly profitable. There is also the sense that exciting technical changes are afoot. In short, this is not just evolutionary business as usual.
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For one thing, there are lots of active-matrix OLEDs here, with Samsung SDI and CMEL presenting a range of small AMOLEDs that are in volume production now. CMEL’s displays are being made with a non-laser annealing process for making the low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) backplane, which is a very significant development because it offers a clear path to shattering one half of Gen 4 limitation that currently afflicts AMOLED manufacturing and keeps costs higher than those for roughly equivalent LCDs. LG.Philips LCD was also showing a display fabricated with a furnace-based crystallization process that will not heat standard display glass beyond its yield point. Unlike CMEL, LPL’s process does not use a catalyst, but LPL is still in the demonstration phase. We may see some furnace-based LPL product next year.
Most of the major players were showing at least one more-or-less conventional 3D display, but SeeReal was showing a technological demonstrator of a 21-inch holographic 3D display. SeeReal has quite a way to go before they reach their goal of a 42-inch full color holographic TV - the demonstrator was monochrome and presented wire-frame images - but, significantly, the company has developed a way of creating a real-time holographic TV that brings the computational overhead down to a manageable level. By the time of the next SID show in May, SeeReal may have something that begins to look like a full-color TV prototype.
LG Electronics’ newly liberated plasma panel operation was aggressively making the point that PDPs are better than LCDs, which is what Panasonic should have been doing for the last 3 or 4 years. This was entertaining because LGE’s large booth was directly across the aisle from the equally large booth of LG.Philips LCD. Bruce Berkoff, formerly LPL’s Executive VP for Marketing and now head of the LCD-TV Association, wondered aloud how long the "Philips" will stay in the company name now that the Dutch company has sold off its first block of stock in a long-planned divestiture.
LED backlights - based on both RGB and white LEDs - could be seen everywhere. Global Lighting Technology (GLT) and Luminus Devices demonstrated a unique approach that features an edge-lit RGB LED backlight with seven parallel light-guide strips. The current iteration of is a knock-out. It uses only seven trios of Luminus Devices’ RGB PhlatLight LEDs, compared to the hundreds of LEDs required in a direct LED backlight unit. In terms of front-of-screen performance, the GLT-Luminus backlight is ready for prime time. Behind the screen, they have to take care of some thermal management issues. (In other words, they have to get rid of the fans.) There’s no fundamental issue here, just solid thermal engineering. It has taken quite a while for panel makers to believe edge-lighting has a place in LCD television panels. GLT’s David DeAgazio Luminus Devices’ Matt Mazzuchi told me that the walls came down when panel makers saw the current version. They no longer have to convince people that edge-lighting is a desirable approach. And one of the great attractions turned out to be the very thin BLU possible with this approach: 10mm thick is no problem, and the timing couldn’t be better. For flat-panel makers, thin is in.
And what else? Narrow bezels are in. Power-saving is in. And a few companies have decided that 120 Hz by itself isn’t enough for controlling LCD motion blur. The solution? 120 Hz plus backlight scanning. Demonstrations by several vendors clearly showed the new approach does make a difference. Of course, LGE had a demo showing that a 60 Hz PDP does a significantly better job on motion blur than a 120 Hz LCD.
If frame-rate doubling isn’t enough for you, one automotive display had frame-rate tripling, and Field Emission Technology (FET) was doing quadrupling: 240 frames per second. It was a gorgeous display with very crisp fast motion. But we know that FED can look great. The issues have been cost and longevity. And why do with high voltage and a vacuum what AMOLED does with low voltage and solid state?
In this Display Daily we’ve just scratched the surface of a very rich show. For much, much more, see the coming Large Display Report (formerly Projection Monthly with Flat Panel Coverage) and Mobile Display Report.