Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting



A Surprising Vitality…

Over the last few years, flat-panel displays have achieved an amazing level of technology maturity as well as market penetration.  Liquid Crystal displays have taken over.  The CRT has been replaced.   Plasma panels are rapidly disappearing, and OLED is still a technology in evolution.   Consumers have mostly met their needs and/or desires for flat-panel displays in all sizes -- from the smallest cell phones to the largest televisions.  The image quality of these displays is better than we can appreciate in most applications.  So other than further price reductions and minor improvements, where do we go from here?

Not so long ago, there was the false hope of stereoscopic 3-D.  However, we should have known better.  Stereoscopic 3-D was doomed from the beginning because realistic 3-D is far more complicated than the display of two stereo images.  Those inherent deficiencies and the need for cumbersome polarizing glasses were enough to turn off all but the most ardent gadget-loving viewers.  

Is there something else we can conceive of to renew consumer enthusiasm?  The recent trend to even higher display resolutions looks promising.  We have already seen this in cell phones and tablet computers.  And as consumers continue the migration to larger screens for televisions, the higher resolution begins to have an appealing advantage.  This combination of bigger screens together with higher resolution should help increase sales over the next few years. 

However, aren’t these just incremental improvements?  When compared to the changeover from CRT displays to flat panels, the answer has to be “yes”.  Also when compared to the days before we had cell phones and tablet computers, the answer also has to be “yes”.  It is hard to imagine that we will again see such a convergence of new display capabilities that finally realized our long-held dreams of “hang-on-the-wall” televisions, and portable communication devices.  We have brought our dreams to life and don’t seem to yet have other unfulfilled ones to replace them.  Does this mean that there is little left for those of us in the worldwide display community except to make incremental improvements?

In reviewing the program for the upcoming Society for Information Display technical conference – now known as Display Week, I find a vitality that leads to quite a different conclusion.  It appears that there are still plenty of new and innovative technical paths that are being pursued.  Even in the area of LC technology, there are new concepts and new materials for TFT back-plane structures.  There are papers on new LC phases, on further developments in cell structures, and films for alignment. 

New concepts are also being explored and described for developing flexible displays.  Where would such displays be used?  It could turn out that they will need to be extremely rugged if we are going to abuse them like we do printed paper displays.  That means plenty of work ahead – and perhaps the need for a breakthrough that is beyond our current capabilities. 

There is of course also much more work to be done on OLED displays if they are to become mainstream products.  Those currently being manufactured are providing a good test bed.  It has turned out that the complexity of the actual back-plane circuitry is well beyond what is typically described in textbooks, seminar lectures, or tutorials.  How will this additional complexity affect the eventual product cost?  Will OLED displays provide images that are sufficiently superior to LC displays to justify the additional complexity challenges?

Alternate technologies such a quantum dots in combination with LC panels are also receiving considerable attention.  This combination could result in improved color capability for LC displays that will rival or even exceed anything that can be created with OLED technology.  

Finally, we should note that engineers never give up.  The failure of stereoscopic 3-D has become a challenge to overcome.  Recent efforts are leading to a better understanding of what is required to create a good virtual reality display.  And that is leading to new innovations.  The more modest goals of head-mounted displays as entry products into the world of virtual reality appear to be an excellent place for a re-start. 

While we may never again see a time where so much changed so quickly, there is still plenty of opportunity for innovation and the creation of new display products.  Should you wish to comment on this topic or others, you may contact me directly from this site, by e-mail at, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.  




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