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Europe’s displays of innovation

Oct 2010
Caren B. Les,

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands – As the European display industry looks to expand, companies are working to innovate, pushing the boundaries of existing display technologies.

“The main issues for the display industry in Europe at this time are sustaining investment with long-term goals, finding mass manufacturing partners in Asia and licensing the technology rapidly,” said Munisamy Anandan, president of the Society for Information Display based in Campbell, Calif.

Anandan explained that the core display technologies – LCD, organic LED, plasma and e-book passive displays (electrophoretic) – are not mass-manufactured in Europe, although there is a facility in Dresden, Germany, set up by Plastic Logic for manufacturing flexible display modules based on organic semiconductors. But he added that emerging technologies in Europe include electrowetting and flexible displays, and that these could be manufactured there.

Video speed, high color brightness and low power consumption are some important advantages of electrowetting displays, according to a white paper by Liquavista BV of Eindhoven.

A screen with paperlike performance and full-color and video capability is in development. Courtesy of Liquavista.

The company has developed a new display technology called LCD 2.0, which is based on electrowetting principles and offers a three to four times improvement in optical efficiency. Anthony Slack, vice president of commercial development at the company, said that the technology is based on a manufacturing process almost identical to LCD production. He added that there would be little or no capital investment needed to convert from LCD to the Liquavista technology. The company’s initial targets for LCD 2.0 include en-abling e-readers with video and color capability at low cost; in the e-reader space, electrowetting displays offer improved usability, content compatibility and cost compared with first-generation electronic paper technologies.

Liquavista BV aims to provide vivid high-resolution displays for e-readers and other applications. Courtesy of Liquavista.

The company is developing technology platforms for smooth and fast e-reader interface, for introducing color to further expand the use of e-readers, and for enabling the readers to become fully interactive multimedia devices. But it isn’t stopping at e-books. “We believe Liquavista technology is a replacement for LCDs in almost all applications,” including mobile phones and notebooks, Slack said.

“Liquavista technology is highly scalable in both size and manufacturability. It is highly versatile and can be used in all modes – reflective, transmissive and transflective,” he added.

The company now is looking to establish manufacturing capacity and to increase the technology’s scale to be directly competitive with LCDs. “The major goal within the next few years will be transferring the technology to mass production and establishing very large scale manufacturing capacity,” Slack said. “The company plans to begin with initial capacities in 2011, and to make the first products available using its technology before the end of that year.”

Another recent display advance in Europe comes from the television display sector. Researchers from Infitec GmbH of Ulm, Germany, and Optics Balzers AG of Liechtenstein have developed a demonstrator 23-in. television monitor that they say pushes the boundaries of 3-D technology. The glasses worn by the viewer do not darken the ambient light, and the screen can be viewed from all angles without distorting the 3-D, according to Eureka, a European organization that promotes technological innovation and that supported this project. The researchers want to further improve the screen on their Dualplex Display project and have secured funding to work on brightening its images. Their long-term goal is to sell their 3-D LCD screen for high-definition viewing to the general public. Initially, however, they plan to target niche markets, such as medical professionals; for example, 3-D imaging could help surgeons in the operating room.

Anandan noted that the current primary areas of interest in the European display industry encompass touch panels for displays, 3-D display without glasses, flexible displays, e-books, organic LEDs and microelectromechanical systems-based displays.

“Europe is generally seen as a center of innovation for display technology,” he said. “Innovative materials for displays, innovative processes for display manufacturing, and innovative displays for new applications are prominent in Europe, and these serve as strong support for display manufacturing in Asia.”

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