One Day, Sixteen Speakers, Innumerable Insights

One Day, Sixteen Speakers, Innumerable Insights

The Bay Area chapter of SID recently brought together 16 experts for a fascinating, far-ranging look at issues that are shaping the display industry.

by Jenny Donelan, Sri Peruvemba, Paul Semenza, and John Wager

WE all know we should devote more time to learning about our industry, but the day-to-day demands of our jobs make it difficult to focus outside our respective academic or industrial silos.  The SID Bay Area chapter (BA-SID), in collaboration with sponsor Honeywell, recently addressed this “education gap” with a fast-paced (16 speakers in 9 hours), one-day ( March 24, 2016) conference designed to shed light on a wide range of technical and non-technical topics related to the display industry.  These included the expected – OLEDs, QLEDs, and e-Paper – and the less expected – microdisplays and the brain, display data management, and changes in traditional environments for innovation.

“The thing I really liked about the conference is that it exposed me to such a wide variety of things I don’t normally think much about,” said Oregon State University’s John Wager, who gave a presentation about backplanes.  “I tend to stay in my very narrow field of specialized focus.”  The diversity of topics, including history, technology, markets, manufacturing, aerospace, business trends, data management, systems, and products, made it different from the ultra-specialized sessions he usually attends, added Wager.

For example: “I thought the Dolby presentation was amazing,” he said.  “Dolby does something other than sound.  Who knew?  The MIT Media Lab embedded interactivity was completely new to me and very interesting.  And the resonant-frequency presentation [haptics] demonstrated to me that very clever and useful things can be accomplished using very simple ideas.”

Market analyst Paul Semenza, who delivered the afternoon keynote, said, “The  Bay Area SID conference provided examples of companies pursuing approaches that are aimed at differentiation and efficient production.”  These approaches are going to become increasingly important, he explained, as the hyper-competitive flat-panel-display industry continues to be dominated by increasingly high performance but otherwise undifferentiated products.

One example of this type of targeted approach came from speaker John Ho of QD Vision, who described the implications of the Rec.2020 standard for display development.  While pixel densities are reaching the limits of the human visual system, the ability to display colors is relatively limited on most displays, and Rec.2020 specifies a broader color-gamut target than (for example) the NTSC standard.

A second example is flexible displays, a longstanding goal for the display industry.  The ongoing development of curved OLED displays for smartphones and wearables represents progress toward this goal.  However, these displays generally require the TFTs to be produced on glass substrates and then transferred to plastic because the processing temperature for the silicon devices is too high for plastic.  The requirement of glass for TFT fabrication also means that inherently flexible-display technologies such as EPD are generally produced on rigid substrates.  But as FlexEnable’s Mike Banach described at this conference, his company has been developing organic TFTs that can be produced on plastic.  Working with Merck, FlexEnable has been able to demonstrate plastic TFT-LCDs that are not only thinner and lighter than glass-based LCDs, but are flexible to a bend radius of 35 mm.  FlexEnable has also demonstrated the ability to drive OLEDs with its organic TFTs.

“The display industry is hyper-competitive and driven by increasingly large investments – as currently exemplified by the multi-billion-dollar sums going into building OLED capacity,” said Semenza.  Despite the current phenomenon of new technologies being overlooked in favor of standardized TFT-LCD and OLED displays (which have already been heavily invested in), the above examples indicate that the display industry still harbors innovative approaches, he noted.

Inventor Frederic Kahn, who has worked many years in the display business, explained how LCDs began fundamentally changing the display industry in the late 1960s.

A Day of Display Technology

Dr. Russ Gruhlke, Chair of the BA-SID; Dr. Sudip Mukhopadhyay, Honeywell Fellow; and Sri Peruvemba, Director of the Bay Area chapter, kicked off the event with a welcome address and an introduction of the speakers.  Short descriptions of these speakers and their topics follow:

Morning Keynote: “The Past, Present, and Future of LCDs – The Black Swan Matures and Prospers,” by Dr. Frederic J. Kahn, President, Kahn International.
   Kahn, an inventor, company founder, SID board member, editor, and recipient of some of SID’s highest honors, described the Black Swan as a high-impact event that is hard to predict, similar to the LCD in 1967.  (Some might also refer to this as disruptive technology.)  Kahn traced the history of LCD development along with his own 49 years of experience, which included his invention of the vertically aligned nematic LCD still in use today.

“Flat-Panel Display Backplanes: Past, Present, and a Possible Future Option, by Dr. John Wager, Chair, School of EECS, Oregon State University.
   Wager discussed a-Si products used in the past, the current crop of a-Si:H LTPS and IGZO technologies, and the possibilities of amorphous-metal non-linear resistors (AMNRs).

“OLED and QLED,” by Professor Poopathy Kathirgamanathan, Chair, Electronic Materials Engineering, Brunel University, UK.
   The focus of Kathirgamanathan’s presentation was OLED and QLED devices, as well as the merits of quantum materials in achieving Rec.2020 specifications.

“Avionic Display Systems,” by Dr. Kalluri Sarma, Senior Fellow, Honeywell.
   Cockpit applications have specific display needs.  Sarma described the work done by his team on the Boeing 777, the F16 fighter plane, various military and commercial planes, and the space station.

“Challenges and Opportunities in Display Data Management,” by Dr. Wei Xiong, Vice- President, Samsung Display.
   The display interface is highly important, but often overlooked, noted Xiong.  While display resolution has increased significantly, panel interfaces have not.  Data transmission via wires in the display has not kept up with pixel resolution, and Xiong expects tremendous demand in this area.

“Advances in Video,” by Ajit Ninan,” Vice-President, Dolby.
   Humans can see a lot more dynamic range in color and luminance levels than what current displays offer, according to Ninan.  We want 200x more brightness and 4000x more contrast.  He talked about movie makers’ desire to create more accurate renditions of their carefully orchestrated scenes, including more immersive colors and full dynamic range.  Work in this area by Dolby has won the company both Emmy and Oscar awards.

“Beyond the Touch Screen: Embedded Interactivity for a Naturally Intelligent Environment,” by Dr. Munehiko Sato, Scientist, MIT Media Lab & University of Tokyo.
   Sato’s research team has created interactive surfaces in everyday objects such as  door knobs.  Using bio impedance, his team has even been able to make plants touch-interactive.  The team has built interfaces into chairs that can recognize individual users and accordingly create a custom environment for each occupant.

Afternoon Keynote: “Display Technology and Market Overview,” by Paul Semenza, Director of Commercialization, NextFlex.
   Semenza traced the history of display technologies and offered a panel roadmap, describing the “race to the bottom” with the creation of larger fabs and lower priced products.  There has not been any killer app for display consumption since the tablet, and the newer apps in vehicles, wearables, etc., use much less display by area.  The industry is in a down cycle and there has been a culling of players and technologies.  Hardly any Japanese players remain.  Taiwan is not investing domestically; Korea has augmented vertical integration with a China strategy; and China continues to catch up.  Materials and equipment companies are profitable, whereas panel makers continue to struggle.

“Haptics; It’s All about Resonant Frequency,” by Francois Jeanneau, CEO, Novasentis.
   Jeanneau’s talk about haptic technology identified the need for richer interactions.  The current crop of products in the market using eccentric rotating mass (ERM) and linear resonant actuator (LRA) technologies leaves a gap in customer expectations.  Newer technologies such as electromechanical polymers (EMPs) offer a range of pleasing sensations, are thin as paper, and enable new form factors.  One smartphone has replaced some $3K worth of other electronic devices.  As the smartphone continues to evolve, will it transform itself to a wearable device by 2020 and what will it look like?  What are the enabling technologies?

“The Path to Rec.2020 Displays: Quantum Dots Versus Frickin’ Lasers,” by John Ho, Product Marketing Manager, QD Vision.
   Display resolution is increasing, although eventually we will not be able to discern it.  But there is lots of room for improvement in color.  Lasers can achieve desired color specs but they are not practical – they are cost-prohibitive and susceptible to observer metameric failure (OMF), in which two viewers see the same source of light and perceive different hues.  Quantum-dot technology offers the best path to achieving Rec.2020 spec.  It is less expensive, and tunable primaries can reduce OMF and are easier to create through leveraging existing LCD fabs.  Quantum dots do face challenges, including regulatory barriers due to the use of heavy metals such as cadmium.

“Flex Display Manufacturing,” by Mike Banach, Technical Director, FlexEnable.
   Banach’s talk focused on organic-TFT-backplane LCDs (OLCDs), which enable flexible devices.  His team has built devices using a number of frontplanes including OLED displays and e-Paper, but he believes that flexible-LCD technology offers a viable path forward through leveraging the existing infrastructure.  He cited favorable trends for flexible displays, including the emerging Internet of Things and wearables markets, which are creating a desire for rollable, curved, and foldable devices.

“Flexible Transparent Barrier Films,” by Dr. Ravi Prasad, Chief Technology Officer, Vitriflex.
   Flexible transparent barrier films are being made by a roll-to-roll process for a variety of applications, including displays.  Barrier films play a crucial role in the development of newer display technologies, including flexible displays and quantum dots.  The goal is to create a film that has glass-like optical properties but is thinner, lighter, and unbreakable.  Prasad’s team has made great progress in addressing changing market needs through this technology.

“Delivering on the Promise of e-Paper,” by Luka Birsa, CTO, Visionect.
   Birsa has been working on e-Paper devices for 8 years, and his team has been able to deploy them in a variety of applications, including street signs in Sydney, Australia, on buses and at bus stops in Europe, and as conference room signs and e-Labels in museums and retail stores.  He emphasized the value of low-power signage products that allow for the use of solar panels to power them in existing infrastructures without the need for digging or wiring power lines.  In outdoor applications, the e-Paper’s sunlight readability is a great enabler.  Birsa’s company has won numerous awards, including a CES Innovation award, for its conference-room signage.

“Sensors Integrated in Displays,” by Dr. Guillaume Chansin, Senior Technology Analyst, IDTechEx.
   Chansin’s work comprises OLEDs, flexible sensors, and quantum dots.  He began his presentation with the premise that a display tends to be a large part of most devices, so why not use it as the platform for sensors?  These could be light sensors, motion sensors, touch sensors, etc.  The trends he foresees in the market include the ability to embed sensors in displays, allowing for automatic adjustments to light and proximity sensing for interaction with objects and humans, biometric sensing, etc.

“Microdisplays and Interfacing with the Brain,” by Mina Hanna, Ph.D. student, Stanford University.
   Hanna explained some of the work going on in academia relating to microdisplays in brain stimulation; they offer great potential for treating brain-related illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease.  His team is working on microwire bundles that allow cellular- and circuit-level targeting; microdisplays allow them to control individual microwires.

Evening Keynote: “Mapping the U.S. Innovation System Today,” by Professor Fred Block, UC Davis.
   Block observed that the decline of large corporate labs in the past three decades, with many Ph.D.s moving to smaller firms, has led toward the trend of government-university-industry (GUI) collaboration.  The current environment has its flaws – managing and coordinating is a big hurdle, the IP system can be dysfunctional, small firms are ignored by venture capitalists, and innovators have to build complex political alliances to scale.  He called for more public awareness of this changed environment and highlighted the need for new rules and methods so as to encourage more innovators.

Beyond the Comfort Zone

Over 100 Bay Area display-industry enthusiasts attended this information-filled event in Sunnyvale.  The evening reception allowed speakers and attendees to mingle – many continued informal discussions late into the evening.  This knowledge transfer event, in which many of the speakers shared their life’s work in a few minutes, will be held again.  “The BA-SID was super excited by how the event turned out and plans to repeat this with a much larger audience next year,” said Sri Peruvemba, one of the organizers.


The BA-SID wishes to thank Honeywell for sponsoring the event.  Members of the team that helped make it a success include: Anna Camarena, Lance Chapman, Scott Hanson, Sudip Mukhopadhyay, and Mark Cyffka from Honeywell and  BA-SID officers including Bryan Chan, Neetu Chopra, Calvin D’Souza, Russ Gruhlke, Jagadish Kumaran, John Miller, Sri Peruvemba, Vignesh Sanmugam, and Xuena Zhang.  •