SID. State of Display…

The latest technology for displays has been on show for Display Week, part of the 49th Annual SID conference. The conference is a chance for the display industry to break records and get some attention. Many deals will be done in seedy back rooms, deals and decisions that will affect next years models of tablets, smart phones and TV’s. With the whole display industry watching on all of the big players lay their cards on the table to see who’s got the best hand.

And so it was all of the largest players in the display industry were present with their latest technology, LG, Samsung, Toshiba, E-Ink, Sharp and Sony were just a few of the big names. If anything SID can be accused of having too much vaporware, technology that never actually makes it to market for one reason or another. This is a common by-product of such leading edge technology being on display, on the positive side it is interesting to see technology develop over the years till it finally turns up in a market ready form. This year E-Ink displays are the new stars of the display world, turning up in everything with a flat surface that can fit a screen. The other obvious trend was for increasing resolutions, this was even applied to the E-Ink displays. There were a number of 10 inch displays with 2560 x 1600 resolutions, the magic 300 dpi barrier has to be passed to achieve this resolution and many companies achieved this goal with many kinds of displays. E-Ink and Epson’s e-Paper, LG’s AH-IPS, Samsung’s PenTile displays, and Toshiba with the record 367dpi 4 inch LCD display, all displays that passed the 300 dpi mark.

E-Ink were not only on display through other people’s products – OEM– but they also had a leading edge technology display. Working with Epson – who provided the high speed processing, the circuit board – E-Ink has developed a 9.3″ display capable of 2,400 x 1,650 resolution and high refresh rates for an e-paper display. While this panel is indeed leading edge it is actually important for other reasons. This is a generic panel that opens up the manufacturing of the product to companies without large r&d facilities. This will become the template for many cheap e-readers. E-Ink was also on display in a multitude of other products, obviously OEM manufacturers are becoming comfortable working with E-Ink displays. New E-Ink enabled gadgets included snowboards, radios, thermostats, sheet music readers, flexible and rollable displays. There’s e-ink everywhere.

Sharp took the highest resolution display crown at the show with their monstrous 85 inch 7,680 x 4,320 pixel resolution LCD panel. Released to compliment NHK‘s Hi-Vision standards, this TV is the first ever TV capable of meeting the new 4k and 7k Hi-Vision standards. For the next 5 to 10 years this display will only be found in studios and production houses. Some demonstrations may be available for the 2012 olympics but don’t expect to see a display like this on sale until 2020. The current standard Hi-Def will be replaced by 4k Hi-Def eventually and that will be replaced with 7k Hi-Def so Sharps record beating display is a full two generations away from domestic use.

Samsung has made a real push at this years SID event, they started early with the announcement of ultra high-resolution PenTile displays before the show had even opened. This early announcement was from Samsung and Nouvoyance, demonstrating their 300 dpi RGBW display – WQXGA 2560 x 1600 -, branded as a PenTile display. Samsung will likely have this in a Galaxy Tablet very soon. For the accident prone Samsung also had a fully plastic display built into a laptop making an almost indestructible laptop. Laptop’s like this may allow for much cheaper machines, being almost completely made of plastic. Samsung also has its own competing technology in the e-paper world, called an Electro-wetting display –EWD– it uses voltage to control a liquid in each pixel, moving it to change the reflective properties. While a very cool technology it is still a few generations behind E-Ink.

LG had an early start with a press releases regarding their high density tablet and smart phone displays. For the show itself they had the entire range of its next generation IPS panels on display. Convering the full size gamut from 3.5″ to 84″ LG’s new IPS technology called Advanced High Performance In-Plane Switching –AH-IPS– are the new Rolls Royce of big screen TV’s. The small panels –3.5″ – 10″– have ultra high-resolution – over 320 dpi – and full colour reproduction. The large TV panels benefit from high colour, better viewing angles and the best LCD picture available. There is talk of Apple switching to an OLED panel for the next iPhone and iPad but these LG panels should keep that contract with LG.

Toshiba takes the resolution crown at the show by introducing a mobile phone display with 367dpi -dots per inch-. The compact display was shown streaming 720HD video at full frame rate with no need to reduce resolution for this 4-inch HD (720 x 1280) display. The HD display will be on sale in the third quarter this year in an un-named smart phone. Also on show by Toshiba was their take on the flexible OLED display. Faster and brighter than e-ink this flexible display was closer to the normal LCD than all of the E-Ink displays. Breakthroughs include lower fabrication temperatures – 200°C – that allows the use of a plastic substrate and the use of indium gallium zinc oxide –IGZO, In-Ga-Zn-O)- in the circuit production. The etcha-sketch looks to be making a come-back as well, with an electronic version demonstrated by Toshiba. Called ‘Write-Erasable Input Display’ this cool little gadget is basically a pen enabled E-Ink display that lets you jo down notes, save them and erase the screen with a swipe.

Sony had a number of flexible display advancements on show. An extremely flexible e-ink display that can be rolled up – to 5mm radius -. The display itself was a 13.3″ next generation e-ink monochrome display capable of showing animations while being bent and twisted. Also on display was a colour flexible display with a resolution of 1600×1200 this is a full-page display. Based on colour e-ink technology this is part of the new e-paper generation. There were a number of process improvements required to make the colour display possible, Sony developed a more accurate way of assembling the filter and display assembly so the aperture size of each pixel is maximised. For the screen to work properly everything has o line up with an accuracy of 5um – nanometer or billionth of a meter -.

Many of the demonstrations at SID are highlighting an improvement in a process or other background technology, they aren’t a specific product. While they may end up being a marketing highlight for a new product much of whats on display is a proof of concept demonstrators. Toshiba has flexible displays produced on plastic substrate instead of glass. This was achieved by lowering the production temperatures so the plastic doesn’t melt, and by using indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO, In-Ga-Zn-O) and other exotic materials to produce the circuits. Sony had such new technologies as Top-Gate aligned TFT’s to make for much more even brightness on OLED displays. Top-Gate TFT’s are a redesign of circuit that cleverly uses the layers of the circuit to remove any interference. Nanosys had QDEF screen technology, a thin film quantum dot overlay that enhances the colour of a display. For this technology to be really effective though it will need to used as the filter inside the LCD. If it is superior to current thin-film filters they will do well.

So new technologies like OLED and E-Ink are coming along nicely, the second half of this year should see lot’s of new technologies finally make it to market. Colour E-Ink displays and resolution tablet displays are just a few of the highlights to expect. If you like machines raw, with-out cases and fully exposed then SID is the biz.

Pictures courtesy of TechOn

Buddha’s Brother out…