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Display Technology Driven by Consumer Spending
by Len Yencharis
Material science, emerging markets and consumer demand have changed the landscape of display technology. Consumer demand for larger-size flat panel screens will benefit such electronic imaging vertical markets as machine vision inspection, while technology improvements in switching speeds of LCDs (Liquid Crystal Displays) and improved lifetime for OLEDs (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) translate into more display options for emerging market opportunities. The larger-size glass panel inspection criteria is a near-term nirvana for machine vision inspection since demand for other durable manufacturing goods has been in a slump for the past eighteen months.
Even though there are big opportunities for machine vision because of the increased demand for larger-size flat panel LCD displays, CRTs still fare better for most high-end computer graphics and image processing applications. However, it is basically a race for material science to overcome current technical limitations, plus the acknowledged influence of consumer styling on industrial buying habits. LCD switching speed?once a perceived technical barrier?has been reduced to a commercially acceptable 12 ms (Sharp and SAMSUNG) and with sampling rates as high as triple the Nyquist rate, improvements down to less than 7 ms are possible. What's more, there have been significant improvements for such markets as softcopy for medical viewing and bistable video switching research for both military and electronic book applications.
CRT A DINOSAUR?
The demise of the U.S. display industry was documented in 1983 when my former partner, Steve Metzger, on behalf of International Competitive Assessments, testified before Congress about foreign companies dumping low-cost monitors in the United States . At that point in time, Zenith was the last major holdout. The change in manufacturing venue over the ensuing twenty years led to massive R&D expenditures overseas. In particular, funding for LCD and plasma display technology improvements was funded by joint ventures overseas.
Ironically, the largest markets for adapting the newer flat panel displays are both North America and Europe, neither of which is a major manufacturer base of flat panel displays. Still, the countries that lag behind in terms of changing buying habits from bulkier CRT displays to sleek-looking LCD and plasma flat panels are more likely to have manufacturing plants located within their domicile. More recently, the news has been centered around improvements in OLED technology as major U.S.-based companies such as Eastman Kodak develop and fund new partnerships and development activities.