2016 Display Industry Awards 2016 Display Industry Awards

2016 Display Industry Awards

Each year, the Society for Information Display’s Display Industry Awards Committee selects award winners that have advanced the state of the art of display products and technology in the categories of Display of the Year, Display Component of the Year, and Display Application of the Year.

Compiled by Jenny Donelan

THIS year’s Display Industry Award winners all address some kind of industry challenge – although the argument could be made that this is the hallmark of any great product.  Our 2016 winners are definitely all great products – it was more difficult than ever for the members of the display awards committee to make their selections from the many excellent displays, components, and applications they reviewed for these awards.  Where this year’s winners differ from each other is whether they solve an existing shortcoming or address one that the industry has not yet realized is there.

Included in the first group are the 2016 Display Components of the Year – two light-guide plates and an ultra-thin polarizer.  These components solve manufacturing problems that had threatened to halt the march to ever-thinner TVs and monitors.  Polymer light-guide plates (used for edge lighting) could only be made so thin before they ceased performing adequately.  Both Asahi Glass Company and Corning tackled this problem by creating glass light-guide plates that enabled super-thin edge lighting for the next generation of televisions.  Similarly, polarizers that were made too thin (and currently just about everything relating to displays is being made thinner) ceased to perform well.  Nitto Denko solved this problem by creating a polarizer with new materials that do not degrade when made ultra-thin.  Another member of this group is in the Display of the Year category – Apple’s iPad Pro display with a variable refresh rate that helps solve the well-known challenge of having both a great-looking display and a respectable battery life on a mobile device.

In our second group, solving the challenges of the future, is Japan Display Inc.’s 8K × 4K LCD module.  It is a stunning display that can be used now, of course, but it’s also designed to take advantage of the 8K broadcasting content that is surely coming our way, with Japan’s NHK broadcasting company as one of its main proponents.  The Apple Watch and Microsoft’s Surface Book laptop also fit in this category.  The jury is still out on how much we need smart watches in general, but Apple is giving the product category its best shot with this watch and its slim bezel (enabled by the watch’s plastic OLED substrate that folds at the edges) and a design and interface sensibility that synchs with the user’s iPhone, right down to the color gamut of the displays.  The Surface Book came with a surprise.  Who knew that it might be possible or desirable to remove the screen of a laptop and use it like a tablet?  But it works and solves the problem some people have of deciding whether to buy (or carry) a laptop or a tablet, or both.

The members of the awards committee and the editors of Information Display are awed by the progress of our colleagues in the display industry as they continue to innovate, solve problems, and make beautiful functional displays.  Please join us in saluting this year’s Display Industry Award winners, the best of the best.

Displays of the Year

This award is granted to display products with the most significant technological advances or outstanding features.

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-in. Display with Variable Refresh Rate

Apple’s iPad Pro features a 12.9-in.-diagonal display with 5.6 million pixels at 264 ppi.  The display incorporates an oxide-TFT backplane to ensure fast pixel charging and improved brightness uniformity.  This is the first time that a mainstream display comes with the new power-saving feature of content-dependent variable refresh rate (VRR).  The iPad Pro keeps track of when content on the screen is not moving (and thus does not need to be refreshed as often) and cuts the display’s refresh rate in half (from 60 times per second to 30) during these intervals.

Apple’s designers achieved the flicker-free transition between 60- and 30-Hz refresh rates by engineering and integrating a low-leakage-current oxide TFT, a special negative liquid-crystal material with low flexo-electricity, advanced photo-alignment materials, and a customized new timing controller.  With the help of the device’s system-on-a-chip (SoC) and operating system, the display refresh rate automatically switches between 60 and 30 Hz, depending upon the content being displayed, achieving power saving without any degradation in image quality.  The iPad Pro 12.9-in. display also features ultra-low reflectivity enabled by advanced anti-reflection coating on the cover glass surface and optical bonding between the display, touch sensor, and cover glass.

Apple believes that the success of the 12.9-in. iPad Pro display will help accelerate a general display-industry technology transition from a-Si to oxide TFTs.

Japan Display Inc. 17.3-in. 8K x 4K LTPS TFT-LCD module

Japan Display Inc. (JDI) has developed the world’s first 17.3-in. high-resolution (7680 × 4320 pixels) fast-response (120-Hz frame rate) LCD module.  The module, which is based on low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) technology with 8K pixels in an RGB stripe arrangement, realizes high-definition (510 ppi) images, and the fast frame rate enables the smooth playback of moving imagery.  By providing a wide viewing angle, high contrast, and minimal color shift, IPS technology, combined with the high pixel density, makes possible life-like 8K imagery that offers a sense of depth and an immersive image experience.

The 17.3-in. size is standard for monitors used in video image production, and the next-generation 8K technology suits that market, as well as medical and gaming applications that require high resolution and image-quality depth.  In terms of 8K broadcasting, the Japan Broadcasting Company (NHK) and its research arm have been proponents for several years.  (See the article “ ‘Super Hi-Vision’ as Next-Generation Television and Its Video Parameters” by researchers from NHK in the December 2012 issue of Information Display.)  That article mentioned an early trial in which select groups of people in London, Bradford, Glasgow, the U.S., and Japan watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies 4 years ago in Super Hi-Vision or 8K.  Since then, there have been public 8K viewings that included the Sochi Olympics, the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and more than 15 separate viewing events in 2015.  NHK, with a web site dedicated to 8K (www.nhk.or.jp/8k/index_e.html), is clearly committed to the technology, and numerous sources report that 8K will be used to broadcast the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, as well as a portion of the 2016 Olympics in Rio this summer.  High-resolution modules like JDI’s are set to take advantage of this broadcast technology.



The Displays of the Year are the Apple iPad Pro 12.9-in. display with variable refresh rate and the JDI 17.3-in. 8K x 4K LTPS TFT-LCD module. JDI display image provided courtesy of NHK.


Display Components of the Year

This award is granted for novel components that have significantly enhanced the performance of a display.  A component is sold as a separate part destined to be incorporated into a display.  A component may also include display-enhancing materials and/or parts fabricated with new processes.

Note: Both Asahi Glass Company and Corning are being honored for their development of a glass light-guide plate that overcomes the problems of polymer-based light-guide plates.

Corning Iris Glass Light-Guide Plate

In the early 2000s, Corning LCD glass substrates began enabling the transformation of televisions from big bulky consoles to sleek contemporary models.  By 2014, Corning realized that a glass innovation was required to enable the thin LCD mega-trend to continue.  Thin LCDs had become limited by challenges from using polymer light-guide plates (LGPs).  An LGP is used in the backlight of edge-lit LCDs to distribute light evenly throughout the display, a key factor in a crisp brilliant image.

Polymer LGPs lack the dimensional stability required for ultra-slim displays.  When a polymer LGP is subjected to heat and humidity, the material can warp and expand, compromising its opto-mechanical performance.  The instability of polymer requires designers to add a wider bezel and thicker backlight with air gaps to compensate for this movement.  Replacing polymer with glass solves this problem, but standard glass compositions have not met the optical requirements until now.

Color purity is another key requirement of an LGP.  A combination of Corning’s proprietary fusion process and Iris Glass’ composition positions Corning’s light-guide plate offering to achieve color-shift performance that matches best-in-class material.  Corning Iris Glass offers outstanding dimensional stability while ensuring superior optical performance that enables manufacturers to offer thinner TVs.

Asahi Glass Company XCV Glass Substrate for a Light-Guide Plate

Compared to conventional light-guide plates (LGPs) made from acrylic resin, Asahi Glass Company’s (AGC’s) new XCV glass substrate offers more than 20 times greater stiffness and a coefficient of thermal expansion reduced by a factor of 8.  This means that TVs made with this glass can be very thin (as thin as 5 mm).  XCV’s resistance to heat and moisture means the bezel can be narrower and also contributes to long-term reliability, which will be useful in the future when displays may require considerably higher luminance.

Light-guide plates use the edge-lit method to transmit and diffuse light from LEDs placed at a screen’s edges, resulting in improved backlighting of the screen.  Whereas existing glass materials were not suited to LGPs due to their low transmittance, XCV is highly suitable because it offers the necessary high transmittance to assure extra-bright displays.

AGC, by adopting its proprietary extra-efficient float process developed for the production of large glass substrates, is now able to mass-produce and quickly deliver XCV to meet demands from TV and display manufacturers.  In addition, AGC can supply the glass with printed dot patterns, which maximizes XCV’s performance and helps manufacturers adopt the glass LGP more easily.

Nitto Denko Ultra-Thin Polarizer

The ultra-thin polarizer developed by Nitto Denko has high optical properties and low shrinkage and is considerably thinner than standard polarizers.  In recent years, as displays such as LCDs and OLEDs have become ever thinner, display components, including polarizing films, have had to become thinner as well.

Polarizing film is an optical film made of a polarizer and a protection film and is one of the most important components of displays because it determines optical properties.  Generally, a polarizer is made by dyeing polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) film with iodine, then stretching it in water.  The higher the PVA-iodine complex is oriented, the higher the optical properties of the polarizer.  Polarizers with a highly oriented PVA-iodine complex provide higher definition.  However, the shrinkage force generated by the stretching process becomes a concern, particularly because the polarizer shrinks in high temperatures, and the shrinkage force of the polarizer can cause panel bending, display distortion, and dimensional variance.

In the past, many studies have been carried out to resolve the shrinkage issue of polarizers. But current technology cannot manufacture a polarizer thinner than 10 µm with PVA film.  At present, the standard thickness of polarizers is still about 25 µm and the minimum thickness for practical applications is still 12 µm.  This is because controlling the shrinkage force of a polarizer without losing good productivity and high optical properties is a difficult issue.

To solve this issue, Nitto Denko developed an all-new ultra-thin polarizer with a thickness of 5 µm, which is about 80% thinner than the standard polarizer made from PVA film.  And the shrinkage force of this polarizer has been cut down dramatically.  Dimensional variance after heating has been reduced by 60%.  At the same time, the optical properties are as high as those of standard polarizers.

This new ultra-thin polarizer offers various improvements.  For example, its low shrinkage force solved the panel bending issues with heating.  And this new polarizer rarely causes display distortion.  Furthermore, the new polarizer has drastically improved handling ability.  This polarizer is making considerable contributions to the development of ever thinner LCD panels, as well as to the creation of next-generation displays, such as flexible displays and wearable displays.



The Display Components of the Year are the Asahi Glass Company XCV Glass Substrate for Light-Guide Plates, the Nitto Denko Ultra-Thin Polarizer, and the Corning Iris Glass Light-Guide Plate.


Display Applications of the Year

This award is granted for novel and outstanding applications of a display, where the display itself is not necessarily a new device.

Apple Watch with Retina Plastic OLED

Apple Watch’s flexible OLED Retina display incorporates edge-folding of the display substrate to a sub-millimeter radius that allows the display to occupy a maximal and symmetric portion of the watch face.  According to Apple, the emissive technology of an OLED also enables power-saving capabilities.  (Battery life is still a major challenge for wearable devices.)

Apple Watch comes in both 1.34- and 1.54-in. sizes.  At 326 ppi, the OLED display allows clear representations of imagery such as the sweeping second hand of a “traditional” watch, and its deep contrast allows a seamless blending of the user interface into the physical product.  Each display is calibrated to produce an industry-standard color gamut that ensures a matched appearance between Apple Watch and the user’s paired iPhone.

Apple Watch is designed to be a highly accurate timepiece, a personal communication device, and a health and fitness companion.  The watch face is highly customizable for personal expression.  With its low emissive power and carefully designed user interface, the watch has helped usher in a new era of display applications for wearable products.

Microsoft Surface Book Laptop Computer

Microsoft’s Surface Book laptop has an easily detachable screen that can be used like a clipboard.  Integral to these features is Surface Book’s 13.5-in. PixelSense display – a screen designed for optimal image quality with touch and pen input.

The 6-million-pixel display has a resolution of 3000 × 2000 for an industry-leading 267 ppi to ensure that, even up close, users see smooth lines with no pixilation.  The PixelSense display on Surface Book features negative liquid-crystal technology and photo-alignment to increase light transmission, overall brightness, and contrast.  The resulting contrast ratio of 1700:1 makes reading easier and provides for brilliant colors.  PixelSense uses optical bonding to reduce glare and an in-plane-switching-type LCD to ensure that the display retains color accuracy over a full range of viewing angles.  Every display is color calibrated.

Multi-touch capability and the Surface Pen also distinguish Surface Book from other premium laptops, allowing users to create beyond the capability of keyboard and mouse.  Surface Book’s 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity and reduced latency are designed to make writing or drawing on Surface Book feel as natural and accurate as writing with pen on paper.  To minimize parallax, the components of the display stack were designed to be as thin as possible without sacrificing performance.  This thin display stack was achieved by using cover glass that is only 0.4 mm thick, a touch sensor film that’s thinner than a few human hairs, LCD glass that is 0.2-mm thick, thin polarizers that offer optimal viewing in all directions, and optical bonding with the thinnest possible adhesives.  Optimization of the software and firmware, Microsoft’s custom silicon, and the efficiencies in Windows 10 combine to reduce latency so that digital ink appears instantly at the touch of the pen.

Surface Book runs Windows 10 and features sixth-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors.  It is available with up to 16 GB of memory, an optional discrete graphics chip, and up to 1 TB of storage.  •



The Display Applications of the Year are the Apple Watch with Retina Plastic OLED display (left) and the Microsoft Surface Book Laptop Computer (right).


Jenny Donelan is the Managing Editor of

Information Display.

 She can be reached at jdonelan@pcm411.com.