Matsushita, Hitachi, Pioneer Jointly Develop Low-Power PDP

TOKYO—In an effort to eliminate what many believe is the biggest shortfall of plasma televisions, Japan's top three plasma-display-panel (PDP) makers have joined forces to create a plasma display that uses less than half the power of a conventional PDP.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Hitachi, and Pioneer Electronics have been working together as the Advanced PDP Development Center Corp. (APDC) for about two years to create a low-power PDP, which they debuted in October at the 2005 CEATEC show in Makuhari Messe (Chiba), Japan. High power consumption has long been regarded as one of the biggest drawbacks of plasma displays. But with power usage of 3.5 and 5 lm/W, the two models developed by the APDC are 2.5 and 4 times more efficient than a conventional PDP, respectively, according to APDC General Manager Toyoo Kanai.

The three electronics giants began work on the low-power PDP in June 2003, Kanai said, and the partnership on the present project will continue through March 2006, when each individual company will integrate the new technology into its own products.

"The main reason for the joint develop-ment is that the scale of development is too high to be borne by each company, in terms of monetary and human resources," Kanai explained.

The APDC has also been receiving funding from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, which is hoping the low-power plasma will help combat global warming and enhance international competitiveness through technological breakthrough, Kanai added.

SID President-Elect Larry Weber, a pioneer in plasma technology, called luminous efficacy the "No. 1 display parameter" makers of all the television technologies are trying to increase. The higher the ratio of lumens per watt, the better the luminous efficacy, Weber explained. And the better the luminous efficacy, the less energy it takes to power a display. Higher luminous efficacy means lower costs because television manufacturers do not have to spend as much on circuitry, cooling fans, and power supplies. It can also help engineers to build TVs that have brighter displays and are easier to operate.

"All of the technologies have a good strategy for increasing the luminous efficacy—LCDs, plasmas, OLEDs and projection TVs," Weber said. "So all these major technologies are racing to try to make efficacies better, and plasma displays are no different than the rest. Plasma displays have a tremendous opportunity to increase their luminous efficacy, and what you saw in Japan at the (October 2005) CEATEC is just sort of an indication of what's to come."

At this point, there is no specific date when low-power PDP TVs will be available to consumers, since each of the three companies will decide separately when to market its own products, Kanai said.

"It's generally understood that the newly developed technologies will be applied to the products in two to three years," he added.

– Jessica Quandt


Canon to Produce OLED Screens for Cameras

TOKYO—Canon Inc. will soon enter the organic light-emitting-diode (OLED) market, developing and producing its own OLED glass to be used for displays on its digital and video cameras.

Canon currently uses LCD screens produced by other companies for its camera displays. But by completely switching over to OLED displays, which Canon will produce internally, the company is hoping to cut costs and deliver a higher-quality product, said Canon spokesperson Richard Berger, who added that specific plans for OLED production have yet to be decided.

According to Berger, Canon is currently working on developing high-efficiency, long-life OLEDs that "realize outstanding brightness and color-purity performance."

"In addition to the cost savings that Canon would realize through the in-house production of OLED displays, this key device offers such merits as high image quality, low power consumption, and a thin structure," Berger said.

OLEDs are not currently available on most digital cameras, although Eastman Kodak Co., the first company to use OLEDs on its cameras in 2003, recently licensed the technology to about 15 other companies, including Fuji.

While it is still too early to say how long it will be before Canon cameras are available with Canon-made OLED displays, Berger said it should be within the next several years.

The OLED displays, which will not be available for sale to other companies, are currently under development at Canon's R&D headquarters in Tokyo. Canon has recently announced it will increase its R&D budget from 300 to 500 billion yen in the next five years. While the company does not release information as to how the spending will be broken down, Canon President and CEO Fujio Mitarai has said 40% of the increased spending will go toward basic research, according to Berger.

Canon currently produces around 10 million digital and video cameras a year.

– Jessica Quandt


Corning's Latest Taiwan Expansion Underscores Growing Demand for LCD Glass

TAICHUNG, Taiwan—Corning Display Technologies' recent announcement of its plan to begin the $425 million third phase of a $1.5 billion expansion of its LCD glass-substrate manufacturing facility in Taichung, Taiwan, points to the continuing strength of the market for LCD glass, despite some reports in the Chinese press to the contrary.

Initial manufacturing is expected to begin in late 2006, and Corning anticipates the overall plant expansion to increase production volume by about 50%, according to Corning spokesperson Elizabeth Dann, rising to meet what the company hopes is a growing demand for the company's LCD glass.

This is the third phase in Corning's expansion in Taichung, and it will be dedicated primarily to manufacturing Gen 7.5 LCD glass, Dann said. In July 2004, Corning invested $750 million in the first phase of its Taichung expansion, followed by a $326 million second phase in October 2004. It is still unclear whether this latest phase of expansion will be the last.

Late last year, Chinese media reported Corning General Manager James Clappin had concerns about the demand for the company's products after he visited with customers in Asia. However, Corning representatives said the reports were a result of a miscommunication.

"We are constantly in contact with our customers in order to better understand their needs," Clappin explained in an e-mail. "We also very carefully monitor and analyze end-market demand utilizing both internal and external resources. The decision to expand our operations in Taichung was not a quick or hasty decision, but rather part of a carefully paced, long-term plan to fulfill the glass-supply needs of our customers."

Sweta Dash, Director of LCD and Projection Research for display-industry research-firm iSuppli Corp., added that it is unlikely Corning or other LCD glass manufacturers are worried about demand for their product. iSuppli's forecast for the first half of 2006 shows a 1–2% increase in demand for LCD glass.

"Glass is actually in slight shortage. It is not oversupplied," Dash explained. "The panel makers are expanding a lot, so that forces the glass makers to expand. I think all the panel suppliers have some kind of contract with Corning, so if they're (Corning) investing, then they're investing because the panel suppliers are telling them to do that."

And even if demand does defy forecasts, Clappin said the new plant expansions are equipped to change accordingly.

"The modularity of our manufacturing capacity enables the company to adjust its capacity as warranted by customer demand," he stated.

– Jessica Quandt


LG.Philips LCD to Bring LCD Manufacturing to Poland

WROCLOW, Poland—LG.Philips LCD has signed an investment agreement with the Polish government to construct a "back-end" module production plant in the southern Polish city of Wroclaw, making LG.Philips the first global LCD manufacturer to start such production in Europe.

LG.Philips is planning to break ground on the new EUR 429 million facility in the first half of 2006, with production beginning in the first half of 2007, with an initial capacity of about 3 million modules a year.

Other big-name LCD manufacturers, such as Taiwan-based AU Optronics Corp. and Chi Mei Optoelectronics, have said they will be expanding their facilities in China rather than heading to Europe. Still, according to Bruce Berkoff, Executive Vice President of Marketing for LG.Philips, Wroclaw and Europe are the perfect location for the next stage of the company's expansion.

"LG.Philips LCD has consistently pursued a strategy of optimizing its global manufacturing processes, and its plan to build a TFT-LCD module factory in Poland is in line with this goal," Berkoff said in a press release issued by LG.Philips. "The Wroclaw facility will help LG.Philips LCD to serve the rapidly growing LCD-TV market in Europe."

Duke Koo, LG.Philips LCD Executive Vice President of Worldwide Sales, said in the press release that the establishment of the Wroclaw facility would hopefully help LG.Philips become the leader in European LCD manufacturing.

"Our plan to build a TFT-LCD module plant in Poland is part of our strategy to lead the fast-growing European LCD-TV market, as well as supporting our customers via the timely supply of products and swift technical support, both of which will be facilitated by establishing a production base nearer to our customers," Koo said. "This move is in line with the ongoing trend of major TV-set manufacturers setting up production plants in Central and Eastern Europe."

Berkoff cited a solid infrastructure, a well-educated workforce, and support from the Polish government as other contributors to LG.Philips's decision to head to Europe.

Production at the Wroclaw facility will focus on the final phase of LG.Philips's TFT-LCD panels, in which workers attach backlight units, light-polarizing films, driver ICs, and product cases to the cells produced at panel factories. The facility will produce large and wide LCD-TV modules, ranging from 26 to 42 in. for TV panels and 19 in. and up for monitors.

– Jessica Quandt


Display Briefs

TT Electronics OPTEK Technology has joined with Australia-based LED technology company Lednium to create a new line of solid-state lighting products. OPTEK will develop the lighting products using Lednium packaging technology. The two companies plan to continue working together on other technologies to be packaged for various other markets, from medical applications to surveillance equipment

Samsung SDIG will discontinue operation at its CRT plant in Germany in 2006. The German affiliate of Samsung has reported a decline in CRT revenues in recent years.

Sharp, the world's largest maker of LCD TVs, announced all of its LCD TVs larger than 30 in. will be high definition starting in 2006.Sharp is hoping the change will boost sales of LCD televisions, which already account for about 15% of Sharp's sales.

TLC International announced that it will launch TLC International Asia Ltd. with a new office in Hong Kong. Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, TLC does glass cutting for flat-panel displays as well as development consulting for specialty-glass-, flat-panel-display-, and photonics-related industries. TLC International Asia will open a second office in Shenzen, China, by the end of the year.

Semiconductor and display-equipment provider SEMES has passed the 10-million-unit mark after beginning to supply TFT-LCD panel manufacturing equipment to Samsung. SEMES provides Samsung with its in-line etcher/stripper equipment.

After announcing an agreement with Immersion Corp.3M will manufacture MicroTouch touch screens for the casino gaming and bar-top amusement industries incorporating Immersion TouchSense technology. The touch screens will provide fast, tactile response for on-screen buttons commonly used in video gaming devices.

In order to fill military and industrial orders in the United States, Europe, and Australia, Liteye Systems Inc. has stepped up orders for production quantities of OLED microdisplays manufactured by eMagin Corp. Liteye has been developing low-power rugged monocular displays based on eMagin's OLED microdisplays for more than two years.


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