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  • Display Center Tour on Agenda
Oct 2006
PHOENIX, Ariz., Oct. 20, 2006 -- Tours of Arizona State University's Flexible Display Center will be offered at Printed Electronics USA 2006, to be held Dec. 5-6 in Phoenix. The conference, sponsored by IDTechEx, promotes organic and inorganic printed electronic and electric display technology development.

Commercial production of flexible displays designed at the FTC could begin as early as 2007, the university said.
“We will be developing the technology for flexible displays, improving it to the point of commercialization, so military developers will be able to buy them off the shelf and integrate them into their systems,” said Greg Raupp, director of the FDC.

flexdisplay.jpgThe displays now being developed at the center use electrophoretic inks made by conductive ink supplier E-Ink of Cambridge, Mass. LCD technology developer Kent Displays, based in Kent, Ohio, is also a partner.

ASU said recent large interdisciplinary efforts such as the Flexible Display Center, funded by a $43.6 million Army grant, have spurred its research growth. Below: Prototype display. (Photos courtesy ASU)

"We have adopted a very aggressive progress roadmap, as the technological collaboration with E-Ink has enabled us to work at a very high tempo," Raupp said.

The displays, which will be four inches in diameter and have a pixel range of 320 x 240, essentially are extremely thin computer screens that will be integrated with computation, communications and global positioning subsystems, Raupp said. The center intends to nearly triple the size of the display to 12 inches (30 centimeters) by 2008.

displaymock.jpgThey will be used initially in handsets then embedded into fabric and integrated in military uniforms to provide real-time mission updates, logistics and maps to soldiers, who will download data from a satellite. The displays will be lightweight, consume very little power and will be rugged and able to withstand high levels of heat and vibration. Once the size of the display is increased, work will focus on applying advanced touch-screen elements, such as enabling solders to add or write data on the display.

Conventional polymer films are used as the main substrate material, but Raupp said thin layers of stainless steel will also be tested. Stainless steel is much more flexible than plastic and can be cut to a near transparent layer, he said.

The FDC, funded by a $43.7 million grant in 2004 from the Army Research Laboratory (ARL), has a 250,000-square-foot display manufacturing research-and-development facility at the ASU research park in Tempe. The facility includes 43,500 square feet of advanced clean room space, plus extensive wet and dry labs.

Army partners include the ARL and the Natick Soldier Center. Industry partners include EV Group, Honeywell, Universal Display Corp., Kent Displays, E-Ink, Ito America, General Dynamics, Rockwell Collins, Abbie Gregg Inc. and the US Display Consortium. University collaborators include Cornell University, the University of Texas and Waterloo University.

Although the Army provides core funding for the center, the center’s focus is on commercial applications. The Army is leading the effort because there is a strong overlap between military needs and potential civilian markets, such as consumer electronics and personal health monitors.

“The FDC brings together academia, industry and government to develop what, in essence, will be revolutionary information portals -- devices that are small, lightweight, rugged and consume very little power,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “But they will be very powerful in that they will hold the key to successful military operations: real-time information.”

In the last six years, ASU has doubled its research expenditures, reaching $203.5 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30. Jonathan Fink, ASU vice president of research and economic affairs, said the increase in research funding is the result of several new ASU research facilities that have helped ASU secure major projects such as the Army grant that led to the formation of the display center.

Also this week, E-ink announced it was awarded its 100th US patent for electronic paper involving control hardware and software for addressing bistable displays. Bistable displays are able to maintain an image without any battery or external power source. E Ink has a number of patents in the area of bistable display operation, including methods to increase lifetime, improve performance and decrease system cost.

Although many of E-Ink's patents are focused on electronic paper, many also have broader applicability in fields like organic electronics and flexible semiconductor manufacturing. E-Ink was recently awarded claims on techniques to print semiconductor particle films, pattern organic semiconductors and produce organic dielectric films at low temperatures. So far, it has been awarded 24 new US patents in 2006, almost double the number it received in 2005, the company said.

For more information about Printed Electronics USA 2006, visit:

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