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Printed Electronics World
Posted on November 13, 2009 by  & 

A new technology could massively reduce costs of display panels

Here is a new technology for flat screen displays that is likely to employ printing for some layers, and can be flexible like a fibre optic cable - the curvature is possible up to 20 times the display thickness.
 
As well as TVs and mobile phones, they could be used for billboards, highway signs, trade shows and more. The displays could appear transparent from the rear. Retailers could use them as windows for people inside and displays for people outside.
 
The company working on this new display is Unipixel. They have developed a new color display technology called Time Multiplexed Optical Shutter (TMOS) that aims to provide manufacturers with the means to produce a lower-cost higher performing display panel.
 
A breakthrough approach is used for the displays whereby light is injected into the edge of a panel substrate and then emitted from the flat surface through tiny optical shutters that act as the individual pixels. Colors are created using the technique of Field Sequential Color - similar to what is currently used in projector systems and rear projection televisions.
 
LCD technology is very complex to manufacture. The process can include up to 128 steps. Unipixel can significantly reduce the number of manufacturing steps because their displays consist of very few layers compared to plasma and LCDs. The technology can also be manufactured on existing LCD manufacturing facilities, heavily reducing any capital expense because existing fabrication facilities can be utilized at lower cost. 70% of the cost of an LCD panel is in the Bill of Materials (BOM). By transitioning from an LCD manufacturing process to a TMOS manufacturing process, an LCD manufacturer could reduce their BOM costs for its display production between 40 and 70 percent - depending on the size of the display claim the company.
 
 
This innovative process could potentially have a huge impact on the LCD supply chain. The impact to suppliers could be a reduction anywhere from $28 billion to $42 billion in revenue attributed to the BOM costs.
 
The TMOS displays are brighter than OLEDs and testing revealed that their displays could exceed 100,000 hours by a factor of two - that is longer than LCDs that typically have a lifespan of around 60,000 hours - Sony's X-EL OLED TV only has a lifespan of 30,000 hours. Compared to the best competing OLED, LCD and plasma technologies, Unipixel believe measurable advantages are gained in:
 
- Brilliance/Energy Ratio
- Power Consumption
- Contrast
- Pixel response time
- Reduced Layers
- Scalability
- Viewing Angle
- Uniformity
- Life span
- Daylight readability
 
Reed Killion, CEO of Unipixel has been doing his sums. He says, "If all televisions and Monitors in the USA in 2009 were TMOS panels instead of LCD, plasma or cathode ray tubes - the savings would equate to about $5.7 billion in the US power grid alone."
 
 
The major subcomponent of the Unipixel's TMOS display system is Opcuity™ Active Layer Film made from a precision geometric micro-optic structure that was developed with a thin-film conductor patterning process previously not available in the industry. A single layer of this film can replace an LCD panel's liquid crystals, color filters, polarizers, cell structures and brightness enhancement films. An edge light is used to replace the LCD's large backlight. These replacements dramatically reduce the materials cost of the panel. Only the Opcuity Active Layer, an electronic backplane, the edge light module, and a drive control chip to implement a full range of systems and applications are required.
 
Initially the film will be used as a protective coating for the touchscreen market. Apart from being used in the TMOS display systems the company sees possibilities for more advanced film being used for printed flexible electronics and in solar, medical and defense applications.
 
Killion added, "We have the ability to design and manufacture thin-film that combine precision optics in microstructure technologies with state of the art inkjet processing capability to intricately pattern conductor lines and spaces, and to surface engineer the films with performance materials."
 
Killion acknowledges the headway LCD has made in terms of lowering operational and manufacturing costs but adds, "LCD is a mature technology that is close to maxing out its efficiency potential." He believes the only way at present to lower costs is by beating down the supply chain. However, he thinks they have hit the bottom relative to what they can do in terms of cost reduction measures.
 
 
Samsung already see opportunities for commercialization and development. They signed a Joint Development agreement with the company earlier this year. This was followed by an exclusive license and distribution agreement in August 2009 between Unipixel and Targus Inc.
 
The company has 126 patents filed with 38 already issued.

Authored By:

Business Development Manager

Posted on: November 13, 2009

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