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by Daniel den Engelsen
Nearly 200 people from around the world attended "LatinDisplay 2007," an international conference on displays and display technology held at the Nacional Inn Hotel in Campinas, Brazil, from November 12–14, 2007. This conference represented the merging of various information-display meetings and display seminars that have been organized during the past 14 years in Latin America.
The conference featured 19 oral presentations, 50 poster presentations, and 16 exhibitors. Attendees came mostly from Latin America, but there were also representatives from the U.S., Europe, Taiwan, China, and India. The driving force behind the previous conferences as well as LatinDisplay 2007 is Professor Alaide Mammana, President of the Latin American Chapter of the SID and also President of the Associação Brasileira de Informática (ABINFO), a cooperative association for R&D on displays and other fields of expertise.
Many may ask, why organize an international conference on display technology in Brazil, far away from the display industry's center of gravity in Asia? One reason is the growing deficit in the trade balance of Latin America in the field of electronic devices. Brazil has had a display-manufacturing activity for quite a long time, notably on cathode-ray-tube (CRT) displays. This manufacturing activity has recently been halted because of the declining sales of CRTs. The growth of flat-panel displays based on liquid-crystal and plasma technologies is irreversible and has already wiped out the CRT industry in the Far East, Europe, and North America. The price of LCD TVs and PDP TVs has dropped in recent years at a rate of about 25% per year, to the point where they are now also affordable for many people in Latin America. This trend will substantially contribute to the unfavorable trade balance between Latin America and the Far East on high-tech devices.
One of the objectives of Latin Display 2007 was to address this trend and identify the initiatives needed in Latin America, notably Brazil, to deal with this economic reality.
In addition to discussing the economic aspects, the conference offered ideal opportunities to the participants to extend their network, exchange information and hardware, consider cooperation, etc. These latter aspects were reinforced by a small exhibition parallel to the conference. Among the exhibitors were the Campinas-based Centro de Pesquisas Renato Archer (CenPRA) and the ABINFO, Brazilian and foreign companies.
Various lectures given during the conference dealt with the dominance of LCD technology, as well as organic-light-emitting-diode (OLED) displays which have already being applied in cellular phones. Sony has just rolled out 11-in. OLED TVs. The picture quality of OLED TV is surprisingly good and many experts expect that OLEDs will be cheaper than LCDs in the future. However, that will depend largely on the economy of scale because it requires that the complete OLED production chain be in place.
Display experts from all over the world gave lectures, which provided a unique survey on the broad spectrum of display technologies. For a survey of the program, please visit the conference Web site at http://abinfo.ath. cx:8888/latindisplay2007/index.php?section=2).
The keynote address was presented by Dr. Margarida Batista of the Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) of Brazil, who gave an intriguing lecture on investing in Brazil: "Brazil: A Promising Place to Invest".
LatinDisplay 2007 offered ample time for brainstorming on and discussing initiatives for creating industrial display activities in Latin America, mainly Brazil. On November 12, there was a lively roundtable discussion between economists and technical experts. This was preceded by two excellent lectures, the first by Dr. Samuel Chung, until recently CTO of Kodak, on the critical success factors of the display industry, and the second by Dr. Baptista (BNDES), who explained the financial tools and the support of BNDES for starting new activities and companies. Due to an emergency, Dr. Chung could not attend the conference, but he was "on-line" via Skype, including Webcams, and the audience could interact with him directly. This was an interesting demonstration of modern communications technology.
According to Dr. Chung, one of the main characteristics of the display industry is long-term vision, which requires a long-term investment plan – this is opposite to the current impatient behavior of investors. Other factors crucial to the success of the display industry include critical mass and cooperation along the production chain. Since Brazil and other countries outside the Far East have neither a large "display mass" nor a sufficiently well-developed production chain for LCDs, PDPs, or OLEDs, the inevitable conclusion is that Brazil and these other countries need international cooperation in order to start display-manufacturing activities. On the other hand, there are plenty of opportunities for creative entrepreneurs in Latin America for special display applications, which do not depend on massive investments in LCD fabs.
An example of such an opportunity was highlighted in the lecture given by Dr. Victor Mammana, head of the display group of CenPRA, who presented a tablet used as a versatile input device for computers. This particular tablet, based on a thin layer of tin oxide on a glass plate, is a good example of a Brazilian innovation that is ready to be introduced into the market. We are used to the traditional keyboard and mouse as input devices; however, a tablet presents a more natural way for inputting drawings, graphs, and other data. Besides individual use, a tablet offers new opportunities in schools teaching basic disciplines such as arithmetic, writing, and language, as well as assisting children to develop their creativity.
At the exhibition, a new student desk proto-type to support working with large-sized tablets of about 50 x 40 cm2 was shown. This desk will be used by 4000 students in Serrana, a city of 40,000 in the state of São Paulo. The prototypes were built by CIATEC (Companhia de Alta Tecnologia de Campinas) of Municipal Government of Campinas, where ABINFO is located.
LatinDisplay 2007 received significant atten-tion from the media in Brazil because of the high-tech content of the displays. Eight Brazilian TV channels broadcast pictures and interviews with organizers and participants of the conference in prime time, and various Brazilian newspapers reported on this conference.
Because of the broad scope of LatinDisplay 2007, various new business contacts were established and new opportunities for R&D were discussed and could lead to follow-up activities. This is a feather in the cap of the organizers of an interesting and stimulating conference.
Fig. 1: SID President Larry Weber tests a student desk prototype with an innovative touch screen based on a thin film of tin oxide in the City of Serrana booth at LatinDisplay 2007.