Latin Display Looks at Displays, Lighting and Solar

This was this writer’s first visit to Latin Display which this year took place in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Although mostly dominated by Brazilian visitors, others came from around the region. Abinfo is a research organisation that co-ordinates activity in R&D in areas of informatics, life sciences, technology and fully supports the Latin Display event.

The first day was attended not only by display specialists but also by visitors from the Brazilian business community. As well as displays, the programme featured some sessions on photovoltaics and also on lighting as much of the technology is shared between these three applications. After two days of symposium talks, the third day was taken up by a series of detailed educational sessions.

Anandan Muniasmy started by introducing the Latin American chapter of the SID which was founded seven years ago.

The first speaker was our own Bob Raikes who gave the keynote speech.

Raikes Says “Don’t forget the people”.

Raikes started by highlighting his mantra that “A display without a person has no function”. One of the topics that he was covering was whether what the market is buying in displays is “good enough”. He believes that there is a long way to go to make displays that fully match the perceptual bandwidth of humans, so there is plenty more to do.

He then looked at the recent developments highlighted at IFA and IBC, with the phrase “More pixels, better pixels and faster pixels”. LCD makers are driving the panels for TV in particular to UltraHD, pay TV companies want faster pixels to improve the experience of sport on TV and Hollywood (which doesn’t have much 4K content compared to the amount of 1080P content) will push for high dynamic range and wide colour gamut. So, nobody really needs all those improvements, but at least somebody wants and needs each, so they will happen.

Turning to the supply side of the industry, Raikes showed how the first three waves of LCD applications, notebooks, monitors and TVs, along with feature-phones, drove the growth of the LCD industry. However, these applications left gaps in the range of sizes where there were general purpose display-based devices. Apple filled two of the gaps, with smartphones and tablets. The gap between those applications has been filled by phablets and now everybody is jumping into wearables, which is arguably the only gap left below 100″. Above 100″, small pitch LED displays are an interesting development.

LCD has become dominant because it can be made at every size from tiny for wearables to 100″ for TVs. That has meant that more than 2 billion active matrix LCDs are being sold this year, giving LCD a huge scale advantage.

OLED is the only realistic competitor and there was interest at the list that Raikes showed of the technologies that LCD has defeated, either by killing them or squeezing them into niches. However, OLED is a different business. While much LCD infrastructure was shared, especially materials and equipment, Samsung and LG, the only companies currently with business in OLED, are adopting different technologies and working hard to avoid anybody else getting access to their technology, materials or equipment. That makes it very hard for competitors, but also for those companies, as it could be argued that the last successful technology developed by a company acting alone was DLP – and that was developed more than 20 years ago, before there was an AMLCD business to compete with!

If you consider the regions that are in the LCD business, there was strong government support for all of the recent developments, and so if you want to get into panel making in some way, you have to start with a good political reason. A profit motive is not enough, as David Barnes has pointed out, the panel makers that publish clear financial data (LG Display and AUO) are around $1.6 billion down on their investments so far! There is profit in materials, but developments take a long time and need long and patient funding.

Finally, Raikes said that the company that had probably changed displays more than anybody recently is Apple with its concept of the Retina Display and its transformation of the user experience using touch. That, he said, supports his view that the key opportunities are in looking at the human side of computing.