Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Smart, less-expensive touchscreens bring interactive learning to the classroom

June 26, 2012 -- At Display Week this month in Boston, I spent some time with Stantum, a touchscreen development company, speaking with Guillaume Largillier, founder and chief strategy officer and Robert Pelissier, chief executive officer. Stantum had recently announced a major partnership with Nissha Printing Co. Ltd., but the conversation revolved around the many enabling roles that this well-designed touchscreen can play, particularly for the education market.

This isn't the first time education applications have come up in a conversation about displays -- Mariquita Gordon of Texas Instruments referred to the educational display market as an opportunity outside of the traditional realm when I spoke with her a few months ago.

Stantum's Largillier and Pelissier pointed out that touchscreens can do much more than replace a mouse and computer monitor -- multitouch and connectivity allow students to interact with teachers and manipulate information on their screens to learn in a more natural and engaged way. Technology in a classroom is no guarantor of success, but technology that brings students into the lesson can vastly improve understanding and information retention. We spent some time in Stantum’s demo room at the show playing with the touchscreens, experiencing the different touch inputs' enabling properties.

FineTouch Z multi-touch touchscreen technology is able to combine -- on one sensor -- finger and passive stylus input. FineTouch Z is powered by Stantum's Interpolated Voltage Sensing Matrix (iVSM) touch-and-write technology. This is a less expensive combination than finger + active stylus (electro-magnetic or a battery-powered) technologies, which use electromagnetic resonance (EMR) sensors on the bottom of the panel and projected capacitance (PROCAP) sensors on the top. It also results in a simpler and thinner display. FineTouch Z boasts optical clarity and works with any type of conductive or non-conductive object, Stantum reports.

The stylus and finger input combine to enable content creation or highlighting on a device -- for example a tablet in a classroom -- much like a user would work on paper. As many as 10 simultaneous touches can be combined with high-resolution handwriting input. The interactivity inherent in electronics leads to project sharing, note taking, and textbook replacement all on one display.

Stantum's representatives pointed out that countries -- Brazil and Turkey to name a few -- are seeking solutions to phase out paper textbooks. If touch technologies can bring the enhanced performance, reliability, and price benefits in one simple package, the education market could be a high-volume and enduring end-use sector.

-- Meredith Courtemanche, digital media editor, meredithc@pennwell.com

Friday, June 15, 2012

The view from Display Week: Kyocera’s new display fab technologies

June 15, 2012 -- Display Week, a conference and exhibition hosted by the Society for Information Display (SID) this month in Boston, was a chance for Kyocera, newly Kyocera Display Corporation, to highlight a range of display technologies, with varying performance and price points. I spoke with Bill Hanna, VP of automotive sales for the Americans and Jessica He, marketing manager, at Kyocera's booth.

Kyocera produces all the components for their displays, with thin-film transistor (TFT) and low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) liquid crystal display (LCD) processing lines. Kyocera’s LTPS LCD technology offers significantly higher carrier (electron & hole) mobility than amorphous silicon, resulting in a higher pixel density, wider viewing angles, higher resolution on smaller screens, a slimmer form factor with lighter weight (due to integration of CMOS drivers on the panel), faster response time and reduced power consumption, the company says. While Kyocera is turning to LTPS for some applications, not every display needs to transition from TFT LCD. Many customers are asking for touchscreen functionality, which Kyocera offers in low- and high-volume assembly.

One of Kyocera’s new technologies, Super Wide View (SWV), offers an 85 degree viewing angle top/bottom and left/right thanks to new materials and structure replacing traditional twisted nematic (TN). SWV aligns the liquid crystal cells in a horizontal direction, In-Plane-Switching, so that the crystal molecules spin in parallel to the panel plane instead of perpendicular to it, reducing the amount of light scattering in the matrix, Kyocera reports. Applications range from industrial to medical and automotive. See a comparison of SWV and TN displays below.

Kyocera's displays are used in many automotive applications, and the company featured a round 2.5” display at the booth. The unique glass design fits nicely into automotive consoles, but is more challenging to cut than a typical panel. Other considerations for automotive? Form factor, and high light output for a start, Hanna said.

Kyocera Display also highlighted its new Direct Glass Bonding Technology that laminates a protective glass overlay or a touch screen on the top of the display. It reduces light reflection by 70% when compared to a conventional bonding process. Displays used outdoors are generally covered with protective films to prevent water damage and scratches. However, this creates an air gap on top of the LCD, causing the display to become less visible and creates color shift due to the glare on the surface, Kyocera says. Kyocera Display’s new glass bonding technology improves readability with lower reflection, more intense blacks, and more accurate colors. A glass-glass (GG) structure brings the polarizer on top, reducing the inner reflection from the LCD surface. It is very compatible with In-Plane-Switching.

Finally, we took a look at Kyocera's value line, with lower optical performance and lower price points. These designs are supporting the general move to display technology in everything from white goods to high-volume/low-cost consumer products. The line launched in 2011 and Kyocera is expanding it with ten new products. The products still offer LED backlights, slim bezels, and low weight and power consumption, with good display performance.

Read more about Display Week in these articles:

-- Meredith Courtemanche, digital media editor, meredithc@pennwell.com

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The view from Display Week 2012: Glass tech at AGC

June 7, 2012 -- This week, I attended my first Display Week, the conference and exhibition hosted by the Society for Information Display (SID), in Boston. Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) and touch displays were predictably top of mind at many of the booths, as was lower-cost/higher-productivity/higher-reliability production.

First, to Asahi Glass Co. (AGC), a glass major supplier, to speak with Takahiro Ikezaki, VP of the Electronics Glass Materials Division. Roll-to-roll glass processing is a future technology that would enable lower-cost fab than sheet-to-sheet. Ultra-thin glass eliminates acid-based thinning steps to get the weight and thickness benefits of thin displays. However, the technology's major challenge is it requires entirely different glass handling and tools than sheet-to-sheet. In the interim, AGC proposes using carrier glass, a thicker glass sheet onto which ultra-thin glass is laminated. The benefits of thin glass -- light weight, thin displays -- are realized without the production change.

AGC also discussed the company's chemically strengthened Dragontrail cover glass. Dragontrail is chemically strengthened before the sheet is cut into panels for mobile displays, rather than the traditional method of cutting then treating. The result is equal performance but lower cost and a thinner panel. AGC noted that OLED-processing-compatible glasses -- those that tolerate higher temperatures -- are increasingly in high demand.

What’s on the docket for glass innovations? Stronger glass thanks to better bevel cutting technologies, and anti-fingerprint coatings for touch panels.

Outside of the display arena, glass manufacturing technologies could benefit semiconductor packaging (interposers) and micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS).

I visited with OLED and LCD makers at Display Week, as well as touch developers. Stay tuned for more news from the show.

-- Meredith Courtemanche, digital media editor, meredithc@pennwell.com