One of the industries that stands to be most affected by the continual evolution of electronic-paper displays is the newspaper business. Newspapers have suffered in recent years as competition from the Internet and broadcast mediums, with their ability to instantly update the news, have stolen the attention of consumers and advertisers.
That is why 26 members of the international newspaper and media-publishing organization IFRA came to Display Week 2007 in Long Beach in May to examine the latest in e-paper technology. The newspaper executives, who hailed from 10 European companies plus Japan, attended Display Week as part of IFRA's eNews project, a three-year initiative that aims to address opportunities for content providers in the emerging e-reading market. According to IFRA, 27 of the world's major publishing houses are members of the eNews initiative, including The New York Times Co. and Tribune Interactive (USA), the Telegraph Group (U.K.), andYomiuri Shimbun (Japan), as well as four technology companies: Arena Partners (Finland), Escenic (Norway), iRex Technologies (Netherlands), and Plastic Logic (U.K.)
The IFRA group met with most of the major e-paper players who were exhibiting at Display Week 2007, including Liquavista, SiPix Imaging, LG.Philips, E Ink, Nemoptic, PVI, Bridgestone, and Samsung. According to Dr. Sven Nordqvist, who as director of business development for IFRA is directing the eNews project, no particular e-paper product or prototype stood out, but he labeled what the group saw overall as "interesting." The trip was mainly to meet the e-paper companies and establish a dialogue for possible future development.
"In only a few years, we expect that e-paper will have an impact on the newspaper industry," Nordqvist said. "However, it is difficult to foresee exactly what the impact will be. But we are trying to be ahead of the development as much as we can be so that we are ready when the change is coming."
There certainly was plenty for them to see, as many of the companies with which the IFRA reps met made major announcements about e-paper products and prototypes, including: LG.Philips LCD's introduction of the world's first 14.1-in. flexible color e-paper display, equivalent in size to an A4 sheet of paper (see photo); Samsung's unveiling of the world's largest (A4-sized/14.3-in.-diagonal) color e-paper display; and PVI's announcement of Flexi-e, the first flexible active-matrix electrophoretic display made in a volume thin-film-transistor (TFT) fab. In addition, E Ink and Nemoptic showed advances in both black-and-white and color e-paper displays. This follows several announcements this spring of flexible-display companies ramping up production of their products.
Nordqvist believes that e-paper technology has evolved to the point where it could be adopted right now by newspapers. Two key issues remain, however, before commercial adoption can become a reality: (1) Color e-paper displays need to achieve the same level of readability that the black-and-white models currently enjoy and (2) the devices in which the displays will be housed need to be simple and sexy — what Nordqvist calls "the iPod factor" — and also must utilize open digital-rights-management (DRM) systems. He did not mention cost as a concern.
"There is a big economic benefit to newspapers shifting to e-paper," said Jacques Noels, chairman and CEO of Nemoptic. "Fifty percent of the cost of printing a newspaper is in the scraps of paper that don't get used in the final product. That savings can be passed along to readers." He added that the cost savings could help compensate for any lost advertising revenue until the newspaper industry figures out the best way to present ads in an e-reader format.
Noels predicted that in order to be commercially successful, the first newspaper e-readers must be cheap to consumers, perhaps in the $250 range. Sony's Portable Reader PRS-500, which features a 6-in. black-and-white electrophoretic display and is designed for e-books, is currently retailing for about $299.
In May, the French newspaper Les Echos launched a subscription product featuring e-paper readers from iRex and Ganaxa. Reports in May stated that Hearst Corp., the newspaper publisher that has been an investor in E Ink Corp., planned to unveil a test model of an e-reader within 2 years for its Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, but Hearst has denied those reports. According to Noels, Amazon.com is also working on an e-reader product.
"We believe some (consumer) groups will be hesitant to the new reading devices, and some will embrace it immediately," Nordqvist added. "It most likely depends on their own life situations and so-called 'media-day' — how and when they use existing media today. We are still trying to come up with good solutions for how we can sell the new technology to the different needs of our readers (young, old, business, commuters, etc).
"We have high hopes that the switch will be beneficial for both readers and media companies. In the best of worlds, this can be the next big — BIG — revolution in printed products after the introduction of printing machines."
LG.Philips LCD Cancels 5.5-G Fab Plans, Will Increase Capacity at Existing Lines
SEOUL, Korea - LG.Philips LCD (LPL) has announced it will cancel plans to build a 5.5-generation thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal display (TFT-LCD) plant in favor of investing in expanded capacity at its existing factories and reviewing the possibility of building a next-generation production facility by 2009.
"This (announcement) will not affect our ability to deliver products to our customers, as we already have facilities ranging from second to seventh generation," an LPL spokeswoman assured. "In February 2007, we announced that we would raise input capacity at our 7th-generation P7 plant from 90,000 to 110,000 input sheets of glass substrate per month by the third quarter of 2007. We believe that for now, maximizing efficiency at existing facilities is our best strategy."
The company had been slated to open a 5.5-G factory for the production of wide-format notebook-computer panels and high-end monitors next year. However, according to one industry analyst, the company may have changed its mind based on the fact that some panel suppliers are already producing those same panels more cost-efficiently at higher-generation fabs.
"Gen 5.5 is most efficient for monitor panels, and it has lower capital cost. That is why it was attractive for some suppliers," explainedSweta Dash, director of LCD and projection research for industry research group iSuppli Corp.. "But many suppliers are already starting to produce monitor panels in 6th, 7th, and even higher-generation fabs, which may give them a cost advantage for certain-sized monitor panels in the future."
LPL cited rapid growth in the LCD industry as the reason for its decision to ramp up capacity at existing facilities. According to Dash, the market capacity will continue to grow, though the exact effect of the company's announcement is still uncertain.
"In terms of area LCD-TV panel shipments, growth will be even higher at about 30%. So each company has to look at their future capacity and decide where they will invest," Dash said. "(LPL's) announcement will not have a big impact on LCD capacity in 2007, as the 5.5-gen fab was expected to come in line during 2008. It may have some impact on the supply side in 2008, but it will also depend on how LPL will be expanding its existing capacity and when it will start its next-generation fab."
According to the May 30 Monitor Supplier Flash Report from industry research group DisplaySearch, LPL shipped about 6.3 million large-area TFT-LCD panels in April 2007 — more than nearest rivals AU Optronics and Samsung.
"In March of 2007, LG.Philips LCD set up a team to find ways to boost output by raising capacity at existing facilities," the LPL spokeswoman added. "We have concluded that there is much room to grow by raising the production capacity at existing facilities. We are still in the process of reviewing all areas for increasing production capacity, and it will be an ongoing effort."
According to an iSuppli forecast, the compound annual growth rate for LCD-TV panel shipments is expected to be 23% from 2007 to 2011, versus only 8% growth for monitor panels like the ones the 5.5-generation plant was intended to produce.
If LPL does eventually open a new next-generation plant, according to DisplaySearch Vice President of Strategic Analysis David Barnes, its success will depend on how accurately the company judges the market for next-generation panels.
"That's the big question LPL must face," Barnes explained. "The good news is that delaying the decision (to build a next-generation fab) gives them time to generate cash for investing and time to assess how the market develops. They will know a lot more about consumer demand for larger TV sets at various price points after Christmas 2007, and they will have some sense of Christmas 2008 before they commit all the funds for the project."
LG.Philips has not revealed what generation of equipment will be used at its next-generation plant, which it expects to have operating at mass-production capacity in 2009. The company said it would complete a detailed investment plan this year.
As for increasing capacity now, Barnes said, LPL seems to be making the smart move.
"If LPL wants to optimize the project for profitability, it has several options and it would be wise to make a series of smaller bets over time. The real question is what TV brands (to which LPL sells its panels) want to buy, how much they want to buy when, and at what price," Barnes continued. "It's a bit like driving at night: It is dangerous to drive beyond your headlights."
– Jessica Quandt
Government Grants Drive Research into OLED as Source for Architectural, Household Lighting
At the recently completed Display Week 2007 in Long Beach, organic-light-emitting-diode (OLED) displays from LG.Philips LCD, Sony, Samsung, and Toshiba, to name a few, drew crowds and international press coverage. But while the buzz surrounding OLEDs as a lighting source for displays is significant, the industry is increasingly taking the materials beyond their traditional display-related boundaries by researching and developing OLEDs for architectural and solid-state lighting.
According to a 2007 report by market-research company NanoMarkets, the market for display and lighting applications for OLEDs will reach $10.9 billion by 2012 and $15.5 billion by 2014. While the report allots the bulk of these dollars to mobile and other display applications, the market for OLEDs in applications such as aviation lighting and mood lighting in restaurants and other public settings is expected to exceed $1 billion by 2014, making OLED lighting a lucrative and diverse field.
"As a technology-development company, if we're able to develop OLED technology for lighting applications, then we create a new pie that we can hopefully capture a nice piece of," said Janice Mahon, vice president of technology commercialization at Universal Display Corp. (UDC). UDC has won grants from the United States Department of Defense for its work on flexible OLEDs and from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the development of phosphorescent OLEDs (PHOLEDs) for solid-state lighting.
UDC researchers discovered the company's proprietary technology in 1998, and found they were four times as power-efficient as regular OLEDs, opening the technology up for lighting much more than displays, Mahon said.
"What used to be considered the max power efficiency threshold for an OLED was better than an incandescent bulb but not as good as a fluorescent tube," Mahon said. "With phosphorescence, you can now get the power efficiency of an OLED up to 150 lumens/W. That's dramatic. That's twice what a fluorescent tube … can provide today."
The United States' is not the only government keen on investing in OLEDs for solid-state lighting. In September 2006, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) announced it would spend €100 million over the following five years to fund OLED research by domestic companies. Within the same timeframe, the BMBF said it expected local industry to contribute another €500 million to the cause. The technology developed by cooperating initiative partners, including companies such as Philips,OSRAM Opto Semiconductors, Merck, Novaled, and Samsung, is expected to be used largely in white OLEDs for general illumination purposes.
On May 24, the United Kingdom's Department of Trade and Industry-led Technology awarded a £1.6 million grant to a group including polymer light-emitting-diode (P-OLED) developer Cambridge Display Technology (CDT), Durham University in the U.K., andThorn Lighting. The grant will partially fund a three-year, £3.3 million project to develop solution-processable organic materials and device architectures suitable for large-area white-lighting applications, CDT said. Specifically, the project will be aimed at developing low-cost materials and devices for solid-state high-efficiency lighting applications. Company representatives did not respond to requests for further comment by press time.
Still, standard OLED technology is far from overcoming all the hurdles on its way to becom-ing the next viable lighting technology, cautioned William Feehery, global business director of DuPont OLEDs. DuPont has been working with OLEDs for about a decade now and is still performing research on making solid-state OLED lighting viable, Feehery said.
Instead, he sees a shorter path to commercialization of the technology for display backlighting. Displays are currently DuPont OLEDs' primary target application because of problems with efficiencies of OLEDs and the cost and complexity of standard manufacturing techniques. DuPont's OLEDs are still achieving a lower efficiency than standard white LEDs and are more expensive to manufacture using a standard vacuum-deposition technique, Feehery explained. But cost is not as big an issue for a flat-panel TV that costs several thousand dollars as it would be for an overhead light bulb that consumers expect to cost only a few dollars.
"I think for OLEDs to really succeed, there will be a materials-development challenge that we need to overcome, and also a process challenge that needs to be overcome as well," Feehery admitted.
In an attempt to solve the problem of cost, Feehery said, DuPont is working on solution-processable OLEDs that allow the company to print the pixels of a display. For lighting, he continued, they will probably use a similar strategy that will likely involve a roll-to-roll process.
In terms of actual commercialization, Feehery added, "The display side is a much shorter time line. We've got materials today that are capable of meeting commercial specifications for displays, and over the next 2 or 3 years, we'd like to see actual production of these displays. For lighting it's still being developed in an R&D setting."
Sharp Corp. has filed a lawsuit against HannStar Display Corp. alleging the company has infringed on four Sharp patents related to liquid-crystal display (LCD) technology. In its complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Texas, Sharp requested that the court award compensatory damages to Sharp and to prohibit HannStar's sales of LCD monitors and LCD televisions incorporating HannStar LCD panels. Sharp said it was also requesting a jury trial. Prior to the filing of this lawsuit, Sharp said in a press release, HannStar signed a patent license agreement with Sharp in January of 2003 covering LCD panels for PCs. This license expired on December 31, 2006, according to Sharp, which also alleges HannStar failed to pay them the full amount of the licensing fees due. The defendants named in Sharp's law suit are HannStar Display Corp. and its affiliates, Hannspree Inc. and Hannspree California Inc., both of which incorporate LCD panels manufactured by HannStar.
Phosphorescent organic light-emitting diode (PHOLED) technology developer Universal Display Corp. has entered into an agreement to supply its proprietary PHOLED materials and technology to LG.Philips LCD for use in the company's manufacture of commercial active-matrix OLED (AMOLED) display products. Financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed; however, as is customary with these agreements, Universal Display will recognize commercial chemical sales and license fee revenues from its supply of materials to LG.Philips LCD, the companies said. The term of the agreement runs through June 30, 2008. LG.Philips LCD said it is currently focused on introducing small- and medium-sized OLED panel applications. The relationship between LG.Philips LCD and Universal Display most recently yielded the world's first high-resolution AMOLED display built on flexible metal foil utilizing Universal Display's proprietary high-efficiency PHOLED and FOLED flexible technologies.
Canon Inc. has announced its decision to delay "for the time being" the launch of its long-awaited surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED) television, citing prolonged litigation and ongoing efforts to reduce manufacturing costs. "We still plan to offer SED TVs as soon as we secure panel suppliers," a Toshiba spokeswoman was quoted as saying in a Reuters report. According to the report, a new launch date for the TV sets has yet to be determined. This is the latest delay for the next-generation TV technology, which has been continually plagued by setbacks due largely to litigation with Texas-based Nano-Proprietary Inc. (NPI).
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