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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Eliminating Fingerprints on Displays

One aspect of Display Week that doesn’t get much press attention is the Poster session on Thursday from 4 to 8 PM. Posters are intended to provide a more interactive presentation of papers judged to be of high interest to a narrow audience or that would best be presented in a more interactive format. Around 200 posters were presented by their authors, six of which were about touch technologies.

One of the more interesting touch posters was P-182, “Theory, Design and Production of Fingerprint-Resistant Films for Touch-Enabled Displays” by five authors from Uni-Pixel Displays. Standard anti-fingerprint coatings work by controlling the contact angle of water or oil – hydrophilic or oleophilic (respectively) for low contact angle in an attempt to smooth out the fluids in the fingerprints; hydrophobic or oleophobic for high contact angle in an attempt to repel the fluids in the fingerprints. (The iPad screen uses an oleophobic coating; if you’ve ever seen an iPad being used, you know that it doesn’t work very well.)

Fingerprints consist of a “liquid chemical soup” transferred from a finger to the flat display surface; the “soup” includes water, amino acids, cholesterol, fatty acids, small-molecule oils, DNA and ionic salts. The structural component of fingerprints is a 3D series of ridges about 3-5 microns high. Unfortunately, the ridges are generally unaffected by coatings that control the contact angle of the fluids in the "soup". The index of refraction of the chemicals in the “soup” is generally in the range of 1.33 to 1.55 (vs. glass at 1.51); this mismatch is the reason that fingerprints are so visible.

The poster authors described using a micro-structured, UV-embossed film to break up the fingerprint structure and wick the liquids away from the source, thus hiding the fingerprints. This solution is not solely dependent upon surface chemistry; some of the properties are achieved by physical phenomena. The micro-structure is raised about 4 microns above the surface. The carrier film can be a wide variety of materials, including polyester, PET, polyurethane, acrylics, PETGs and polycarbonates. The embossed area can be in the range of 15% to 25% of the total surface area.

The result is a robust, abrasion- and fingerprint-resistant surface with a silky surface feel. Before-and-after photos above illustrate this result. – Geoff Walker, NextWindow

Friday, May 28, 2010

Samsung Demonstrates Transparent LCD

One of the panels on display in the Samsung booth was transparent. The demonstration had it set up like a store window, with products displayed behind the glass and the display presenting images on the window itself. The 46-inch prototype was remarkably clear and the displayed images were crisp and easy to read. It appeared that “white” portions of the image were transparent, and any other color was readily viewable on the window’s glass.

This probably does not have much application for the home, but could be used in a wide range of industrial, transportation, and digital signage applications. The transparency of the panel was remarkable, especially when you consider all the layers that go into an LCD device. Samsung did not offer any information on whether there are plans to commercialize the product. -- Alfred Poor,

Observations from the Last Day on the Show Floor

Thur. May 27. To close out my blogging on Display Week, I’ll just be providing a short list of assorted observations and thoughts from Thursday. It was quite an intense day, but a good one on many levels.

• I was fortunate to be able to provide a welcome to the Market Focus seminar on touch interfaces, and hung around for a few of the talks. There is so much energy going on around advanced interfaces, and this particular group was very highly attuned to the product design and demand side. It was a good reminder that a technology alone does not lead to a success, but when integrated into a product done well, it can be magic.
• On the exhibit floor, it was hard not to run across multiple approaches towards 3D displays. With the crowds thinning a bit, I managed to notice that I had skipped past a prominent demonstration by 3M with an autostereoscopic design for handheld devices. The gamers in my family would certainly appreciate a glasses-free 3D image of this quality on their handheld devices.
• Progress on epaper continues at a torrid pace. E Ink, the de facto leader in the field, has set the bar higher with some epaper prototypes with an astounding 55% reflectivity. This gives new meaning to “paperlike” with reflectivities this high. Immensely impressive were some challengers, though, and in particular the Qualcomm Mirasol display, showing very good color and video rate operation. The Mirasol displays were high quality, and I could imagine this device in a range of products quite soon. At a bit earlier stage, but still very impressive, is the Liquavista electrowetting displays, showing excellent color and video response for a reflective device.
• I got to release some tension at the Corning booth, where the helpful staff allowed me to smash some standard glass plates, and then watched my frustration while trying to break a piece of their Gorilla Glass product. Very impressive, and I was amazed I could not break the glass – I’ll have to bring my own tools next time.
• Flexible displays continued on their remarkable advance. Some impressive examples of displays with flexible backplanes (silicon, metal oxides, organics) and flexible frontplanes (OLED, epaper, and liquid crystal) were visible in both the symposium sessions and on the exhibit floor.
• There was excellent press coverage at the meeting, with national media, local television and newspapers, and bloggers bringing the news from SID to the outside world.
• Solid-state lighting made a strong debt at SID this year. For me, I enjoyed Thursday’s session on OLED lighting, learning about recent advances that are vital in taking this technology out of the laboratory and into products. UDC’s report of a white pixel structure with efficacy over 100 lm/W was particularly impressive.
• Today’s “I wonder how they did that?” moment was in the Samsung booth, with its transparent LCD. This demo looked very much like a window, until an electronic image scrolled across the screen and made it clear that this was a liquid-crystal display, and not a pane of window glass. Very cool.
• To wrap up the day, I enjoyed a couple hours wandering around the poster sessions, and engaging many authors presenting their work. This one-on-one interaction is a way to engage in a direct and personal way with authors, and gain insights into work in a manner that is just not possible by simply listening to an oral presentation.

Overall, a highly satisfying day, and a good lead-in into the final day of SID on Friday.

-- Paul Drzaic, Drzaic Consulting Services, Past President, SID

E-Paper and Display Week: What a Difference a Year Makes

As I was walking the convention floor on Thursday, I couldn’t help comparing the state of Display Week, and of the e-paper industry, against where they were a year ago in San Antonio. By all measures, the conference as a whole has bounced back, with attendance up nearly 100% over last year. E-paper exhibitors like Liquavista and Bridgestone, who were completely absent from last year’s show, are back this year with impressive improvements in the performance of their prototypes. Liquavista was demonstrating fully functional active-matrix color electrowetting demonstrators, and Bridgestone had a sample of its AeroBee tablet, using its QR-LPD particle-based display technology. Meanwhile, mainstays like E Ink (now a division of TFT manufacturer Prime View International following a December acquisition), LG Display, and Samsung continued to show ever more impressive flexible and glass e-paper panels, with features like in-cell touch and improved color rendition. It’s certainly reassuring to see that so many e-paper companies and technologies have weathered the economic storm and are back in growth mode. --- Robert Zehner, E Ink

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Synthetic 3D Photo Frame

Almost all stereoscopic displays – such as 3DTVs – share one limitation. Even though you can see which objects are closer to you in the image than others, you still can’t peek around them to see what’s behind. To do this requires that the display support “motion parallax”, which means that the views change when you move your head. There are some volumetric and holographic displays that can do this, but your typical stereoscopic display only has one image available for each eye.

That’s not the case with the 3D LCD photo frame shown by Newsight Japan at SID 2010. You can start with a two-view stereoscopic image (in MPO data format), or even with just a 2D single view from a standard digital camera (in JPEG format). The image is then processed by a program on a PC that extracts the depth information from the image data. Using this information, it creates a total of five separate images. You can then display the processed image on the photo frame. The lenticular lens design makes it auto-stereoscopic, so no special glasses are required. And when you move your head to one side or another, you can “see around” objects in the front of the image and see what’s behind them.

The next generation of the photo frame will have the conversion software contained in the controller, so that it can automatically convert original 2D and 3D images. And a third generation model is planned with telecommunications features so that the panel can send and receive images from other panels. --Alfred Poor,

The Single Cable Monitor

If you visited the 3M exhibit at SID 2010 this year, you might have spotted a fairly typical 18.5-inch computer monitor attached to a typical notebook computer. You might have thought that there was nothing remarkable about the arrangement until you started counting the cables connected to the monitor; there was just one. And on closer inspection, you would have found that the cable was a simple USB cable. Just a moment; where’s the power cable?

The monitor was in fact a demonstration designed to show off the energy conserving attributes of 3M’s Vikuiti Dual Brightness Enhancement Films (DBEF). These multi-layer films are reflective polarizers that make more efficient use of the light produced by an LCD panel’s backlight. By pairing this technology with the low-energy efficiency of an LED backlight, 3M was able to drop the power requirements from about 14 Watts to just 8 Watts, which is about the requirement of a typical incandescent night light bulb. This low power draw let 3M eliminate the bulky AC-to-DC power conversion circuitry, and simply power the entire display from a USB 3.0 port. And the same USB cable can also carry the display data, eliminating the need for a graphics adapter and graphics cable. --Alfred Poor,