4DD’s Refocus on SLM Business

4DD34thDD’s Spatial Light Modulator components including the 2048 x 1536 pixel QXGA-3DM SLM shown at SID Display Week 2015At this year’s SID Display Week we took time to talk with ForthDD’s CEO Greg Truman (now part of Kopin) who told us the company now gets half its high resolution LCoS micro display business from non-display markets, particularly spatial light modulation applications, not high resolution viewfinders or projection displays. One look at the ForthDD company landing page on the web tells the story with SLM supplier prominent in the headline text.

New target applications in the SLA space include industrial, healthcare and government markets utilizing its QXGA resolution liquid crystal on silicon spatial light modulators. Key applications in this non-display space include automated optical inspection systems (AOI) and solder paste inspection (SPI) systems in high volume production of electronics-just to name a few. The high resolution SLM’s improves accuracy, speed and precision of the machines used in this field. One example Truman said is the now cubic micron accuracy that can be generated from this equipment and is now contributing to the high end, technology-dense devices including smartphones, tablets and now wearable devices. Other applications for the SLM’s include structured light projection, 3D optical measurement, and machine vision systems.

Beyond the SLM module the company also provides the driver and software, what Truman calls “the right tool set” needed for implementation in SLM applications. He also mentioned they usually require no upfront NRE for customer development support but it is on a case-by-case basis. Their extensive engineering and integration experience and relatively low learning curve (depending on the project) helps avoid this, Truman said.

At the SID Display Week booth FourthDD showed a QXGA (2048 x 1536) electronic view finder (EVF) demo, revealed for the first time at the show. The group does offer drop in replacement components for thermal weapons sights, medical health care and optical microcopy and surgeon HUD systems, and that business also provides the company with healthy margins. “The NVIS robotic surgical system comes to mind for training in surgery,” said Truman, “as well as being on the cusp of microscopy and the need for super resolution microscopes.” He mentioned Eric Betzig who won a Nobel Prize for chemistry for his work at HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) that included developing novel optical imaging tools including a super resolution microscope.

So from the SXGA LCoS 1.3M pixel display launched in 2013 to the newest 3.1M pixel QXGA LCoS in a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution offers a host of options for either market, human or machine interface. Specifics include a non-video drive interface, offline programming via RS-232, RS-485 and USB i/o with PC-less (no computer) operation and more, all in a small form factor that can accommodate most existing mechanical designs looking for display component resolution upgrades to QXGA. – Steve Sechrist